UK Kids Failed by Poor Quality Math Lessons

The chief executive of one of Britain’s biggest exam boards said growing numbers of young people are struggling to function in the real world of work after failing to “acquire the math skills that society demands” at school, writes Graeme Paton at the Telegraph.

Mark Dawe, chief executive of OCR, suggested that the existing curriculum was unable to cater for children with different needs – from the very brightest at one end and to that struggle with the basics at the other.

Currently, almost half of 16-year-olds fail to achieve grade C at GCSE, and worryingly, it is also feared that as many as a quarter of economically active adults are “functionally innumerate”.

Mr Dawe commented that lessons: “will always be flawed until schools, universities and employers agree on what maths skills they really want from young people”.

“Math means different things to different people,” he said. “Some say it’s all about numeracy – the facility to add, subtract, multiply and divide whole numbers, with perhaps, a little bit of percentages thrown in – whereas others equate maths with arithmetic – the art of calculation.”

Speaking before a conference at the Royal Institution in London, he said:

“Too many students do not acquire the math skills that society demands which means they can’t enjoy mathematics or take it into further education, the workplace or use it in everyday life.”

James Fothergill, head of education and skills at the CBI, agreed, saying that there’s currently a gap between the standard of math achieved by many school leavers and the skills that employers require, writes Kate Loveys at the Daily Mail.

“We need to see young people who are confident with mental arithmetic, working out simple percentages, ratios and fractions and being able to spot errors and rogue figures which are essential for work and everyday life.”

Next week it is expected to be announced that the number of 16 to 24 year olds not in employment, education of training, ‘Neet’, will have reached the alarming one million mark.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has said that pupils will have to study the subject until they pass, or leave school in an effort to address this. In 2015 the compulsory school leaving age will rise to 18.

A Department for Education spokesman, said:

“It’s crucial that pupils master the basics in maths at school.”

“That’s why we’re encouraging more maths specialist teachers for the state sector and prioritising funding for graduates with a 2:1 or first class degree in maths and sciences – so that we can drive up standards in schools across the country.”

To gather views on the future direction of the subject the OCR has now set up a new “math council.”