Are the Times Tables Turning?

Non-blog life (otherwise known as life) has eased up enough to get back to posting, and there’s quite a backlog of topical, “must do today” posts, plus a requested TNDOT. Usually, if I don’t get to a topical post quickly then I just drop the idea. Some recent media stuff has sufficiently annoyed me, however, that I’ll pretend it’s all still topical and I’ll post anyway.

First, another quick word about Tony Gardiner, who unexpectedly died last month. Tony’s death has affected me deeply, particularly given that I never met him, modulo attending a memorable lecture, and given that it was for only a couple years that we conversed, by email and through this blog. But I had begun to realise, and more so with his death, how much Tony had been guiding me, by explicit, admirably blunt, advice, and much more by example. I realised that I had started to compose blog posts with a “What would Tony think?” voice in my head. And Tony’s example is unparalleled. The amount that Tony contributed to mathematics education, for decades, is simply phenomenal, much of it dirt cheap or free. Tony had a missionary dedication to the mathematics education community, and he had a wisdom about mathematics education second to none. I know how fortunate I am to have Tony’s voice in my head. It will always be there.

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Maths Anxiety Is Still Not a Thing

I’m late to this. Things have been busy, and not good. Still, the work goes on and this has to be done.

Last week, The Centre For Independent Studies came out with yet another “Analysis Paper”: Facing Up to Maths Anxiety. The paper is by “eminent professor David C Geary” and was launched with the standard fanfare, including a Canberra Times op ed by Geary and a companion ABC article by CIS’s Lead Education Pontificator, Glenn Fahey. Continue reading “Maths Anxiety Is Still Not a Thing”

Belabouring the Real World

Bridget Phillipson is UK Labour’s shadow minister for education. She is proposing a new program, “phonics for maths”, which sounds like a good thing. Countering Rishi Rich’s idiotic demand that everyone study mathematics until they’re 50, Phillipson gave a speech a few days ago, with a decent chunk on primary school mathematics:

“Maths is the language of the universe, the underpinning of our collective understanding. It cannot be left till the last years of school.”

“… it’s why I’m proud to tell you today, that we’ll tackle our chronic cultural problem with maths, by making sure it’s better taught at six, never mind 16.”

Great. And how is Labour to do this? Well,

Labour says it will replace Rishi Sunak’s demand for compulsory maths classes until 18 with improved maths teaching for younger children and “real world” numeracy lessons for pupils in England.

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, will tell Labour’s conference in Liverpool that its curriculum review would “bring maths to life for the next generation”, using practical examples drawn from household budgeting, currency exchange rates for tourists, sports league tables and cookery recipes.

Not quite. Phillipson tinkered with her speech after feeding it in advance to the media. So, “real world” is no longer there. But, the real world message is:

“Because be it budgeting or cooking, exchange rates or payslips, maths matters for success.

And I want the numeracy all our young people need – for life and for work, to earn and to spend, to understand and to challenge, I want that to be part of their learning right from the start.”

Yep just like phonics, which is, of course, all about the real world.

These people are always the same, the emphasis on “the real world” demonstrating only that they understand nothing of mathematics education. Greg Ashman responded perfectly to a tweet making this point: “It’s a ‘tell’ as the poker players would say”.

Phillipson may have deleted “real world” from her speech but there are still plenty of tells.

You Can Lead a Horse to Textbooks

Or a mule, maybe. You can lead a mule to textbooks.

About a month ago, there appeared a Conversation article by Rachel Marks, a researcher in primary education at the University of Brighton, in England. Based upon research for which she was the Principal Investigator, Marks’s article was about a UK government program, launched in 2016, where primary schools were offered matching funds to purchase mathematics textbooks. Marks and her colleagues concluded that schools substantially rejected the program: few schools took up the offer of subsidised texts, and fewer stuck with it. Continue reading “You Can Lead a Horse to Textbooks”

Maths Anxiety Is Not a Thing, But Let’s Talk About It Anyway

A couple days ago there was an article in the SMH, titled,

Bad with numbers? You might have maths anxiety

Yeah, maybe. Or maybe you just suck at maths. It’s a conundrum.

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PoSWW 27: That Does Not Compete

This one’s from AMT‘s 2007 upper primary Australian Mathematics Competition. Yes, it’s a while ago, and we are not aware that such BODMAS nonsense has appeared since on the AMC, and of course such BODMAS nonsense is endemic elsewhere. But we hold, or at least held, AMT to a higher standard.

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The Singapore Mathematics Syllabus

We’re working on a long ACARA post, which, hopefully, will be up in a day or so. In the meantime and as a bit of background for the coming post, readers may wish to have a wander through the Singaporean Primary Mathematics Syllabus.* (The syllabus begins with explanatory chapters, and the content description begins on page 34.)(Added 12/10/21 – The Secondary Syllabus 1-4 is here.)

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RatS 14: Jen Deyzel on The Great Decline

Jen Deyzel is a retired primary school teacher, a “septuagenarian” (now octogenarian) with decades of experience. She came up in conversation with a parent, whose children are tutored by Jen. In 2017, Jen wrote an essay on the decline of Australia’s educational standards. Jen has kindly permitted us to reproduce her essay, below (and in PDF form here).

The Great Decline:

Why Australia’s Education Standards are Plummeting Fast

Jen Deyzel

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