Posted in teaching

The new Mathematics curriculum: noble aims or challenging content?

This week’s blog is an opinion piece on the new maths curriculum from Joe Murray, a fiery retired maths consultant. The views represented here are his own.

“The Government’s new curriculum for Mathematics has certainly put the fox in the henhouse and led to much chatter from consultants, professional development providers and others! Things are a little quieter now as people get on with interpreting what exactly is needed or – in some cases – just get on with doing the good things they were always doing.

In terms of content, we now have fractions in early years and algebra in primary maths. As long as the former is done with simple fractions and with lots of practical work, this will be something many children  will grasp and don’t young children already have “half” and “quarter” in their vocabulary? Algebra is not new but does exist already in much of primary number work. A re-focus on some simple ideas will raise awareness of algebraic thinking and develop some pre-Algebra concepts ahead of the secondary years. The bigger fear for me is not the Department for Education (DfE) but short-sighted secondary teaching based on abstract ideas that makes the whole algebra curriculum a bewildering mystery for too many kids.

I am curious about the need for Roman Numerals, but like to think it will make cross-curricular work with History a lot more fun. The opposition to using a calculator – which the DfE and Mrs Twiss espouse – is strange. Yes, poor teaching will allow children to become lazy with calculation but good teachers will exploit the use of calculators to support enquiry within mathematics and develop sound understanding of number. Should we not be supporting good teaching?

One aspect of the new curriculum which does invite and deserve praise is its aims. I whole-heartedly endorse the development of fluency, reasoning and problem solving.

  • Fluency must be much more than the “rapid recall” and will include varied and frequent practice with increasingly complex problems over time, so that pupils develop conceptual understanding.
  • Reasoning will need to include a line of enquiry, conjecturing relationships and generalisations, and developing an argument, justification or proof.
  • Problem solving will comprise a variety of routine and non-routine problems with increasing sophistication, and must include teaching strategies for solving problems like breaking down tasks into a series of simpler steps and perseverance in seeking solutions.

Despite the oft-criticised content, perhaps the success of this new mathematics curriculum will be found in noble aims?”

What do you think of the new maths curriculum? Tweet #Curriculum2014 to @TheSchoolBus.




I'm an ex-teacher with a real passion for education, politics and teaching. I am also a keen writer and blogger with strong opinions.

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