Headlines: June 19th, 2002

A new study sounds a warning note for the Government’s ambition to demonstrate by test results that standards of maths learning is improving at key stage 3 (age 11 to 14).A study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) shows that students only participate as much as they do in maths lessons because of a sense of loyalty to their school or duty to their parents.

The year long study was conducted by the University of East Anglia among year nine middle ability classes in Norfolk. It found students were literally T.I.R.E.D. of maths according to a profile which includes the characteristics Tedium, Isolation, Rote learning, Elitism and Depersonalisation.

Pupils admitted to being mystified by maths and many less confident students felt they were naturally ‘no good at it’ and that increased effort by them wouldn’t necessarily yield better results.

The authors say that some students’ self images of mathematical ability are so overwhelmingly negative they would deteriorate further in a highly stratified environment of setting and testing.

On a positive note, they did find evidence that positive teaching styles, teacher personalities and classroom activities which generated meaningful and ‘fun’ mathematical experiences’ were offered by students as approaches which could make a difference.

Links: www.uea.ac.uk/~m011  and www.esrc.ac.uk