Trainee Teachers Can’t Count

The Daily Mail has a report today saying that one fifth of trainee teachers can not spell or do sums. One apparently took 37 resits before passing a maths test.

Presumably the point of the article is to create a sense of outrage that “Our Kids” are being taught by unqualified teachers.

There is also the question of how people can be old enough to go to teacher training college and not have learned how to spell or do basic maths.

I know, I know their teachers couldn’t spell or do basic maths either.

These stories pop up regularly, in fact Channel4 Dispatches had 2 one hour programs in February 2010, Kids Don’t Count, which you may still be able to watch here.  Kids Don’t Count featured Richard Dunne, a maths teaching expert from Maths Makes Sense. This program claimed that it is possible to start a teacher training course to become a primary school teacher with only a grade C at GCSE maths.

Watching the program I was struck by the difference in the manner of Richard’s interaction with the school children compared to their normal teachers. Richard was lively, animated, enthusiastic and got the whole class involved in solving problems. This problem solving included physically moving objects about. As far as I could tell the normal teachers, where much more subdued and spent most of their time talking to their pupils. Except when it was time for SATs revision when they just played them a CD of questions.

Maths Makes Sense is being sold and people are commenting enthusiastically about it. Though, as far as I can tell, it is a system aimed at schools and teachers.

But why should children be limited to only learn from schools and teachers?

What about parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles?

Children do learn many things from the parents and other people around them, but it happens so naturally that we tend to take it for granted. Walking and talking for example. Would anyone seriously consider leaving it to schools to teach their children how to walk and talk.

It seems to me that we tend to drastically underestimate how much we, as parents, contribute to our children’s learning. Until it goes wrong. If you Google “Girl in the window”, or look here you can read the horrific story of Danni. Briefly on 13 July 2005 in Florida USA, Danni was found in a unwashed and crawling with lice in a room with a 4 foot high pile used nappies. Danni could not speak and as far as I know still can not. She may never be able to.

I urge to read this story and I hope you will never underestimate the huge effect you have on your children.

There are many ways we can help our children learn, such as listening to them read and helping them to learn to write. Others are so simple we may not notice,

  • talk you your children
  • play games together, for example snakes and ladders
  • do things together, cooking sewing, carpentry

Most games and activities involve some element of counting, measuring or sharing (i.e. dividing).

You may have had the experience of cramming for an exam, which you passed, only to find that a few months later you can hardly remember anything.  What we learn tends to fade away.  But we can guard against this by regular review.

In my experience regular short sessions are the best way to learn.  You can review what you recently learned, and learn on or two new things.  Best of all short sessions leave more time to play.

I have written a report which explains in more detail how parents can help their children in small steps, in regular short sessions. Little and Often. You can download a copy here in return for leaving your name and email address.

I have written a longer report, Starting Arithmetic, which explains in detail how I helped my children learn arithmetic at primary school which you can buy here for no risk as I offer a 30 day no quibble refund. Alternatively you can just download the appendices from Starting Arithmetic here in exchange for leaving your name and email address.

It may seem that I have an advantage in helping my children with primary maths as I have a BSc in maths and a PhD in experimental particle physics. But the only maths I used in helping my children with primary maths, was primary maths!   In effect I knew that the secret is there is no secret, you just have to give it a go.

Quite a few of the posts I have written on this blog discuss DEFRA’s and EA’s claim that sea level rise is accelerating.  This highlights a good reason to learn a little maths, when people try and mislead you, you can spot the mistakes in their arguments.  The financial penalty for not being able to do this.  The cost of EA’s SMP has been estimated at £2.6 billion.

By looking at freely available data on sea level rise and using nothing more complicated than division, I have been able to demonstrate  sea levels are falling at Felixstowe.  In an earlier post I explained how EA made a very large and basic error when calculating the rate of sea level rise on their website. This lead them to claim that sea levels were rising at least double the rate they are actually rising.

Whether it’s

  • spotting that a goverment agency is misleading you
  • checking the cost of pension
  • working out the saving of a  3 for the price of 2 offer

a little basic arithmetic can save you a lot of money.

This entry was posted in arithmetic, maths. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Trainee Teachers Can’t Count

  1. kimpearce@how to become a primary school teacher says:

    You Highlighted a Shocking but True Reality, I really feel worried whenever I think about the future of education. The government should must take all the necessary steps to take control over this kind of situation.

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