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Curriculum 2014 – experts’ views on the draft Maths programme of study

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By John Dabellteacher, writer and Ofsted-trained inspector

After a pre-consultation process the draft Programmes of Study (PoS) for all subjects at Key Stages 1-3 were formally published in February 2013. This consultation closed in April. Read an overview of experts’ reactions to the draft mathematics programme of study.


Negative feedback to the maths PoS

2014 National Curriculum logo

Many welcome the government’s prioritisation of maths and the general raising of expectations at KS2 in preparation for KS3 – but, not unsurprisingly, there has been plenty of feedback to the proposed changes, one of the most vociferous being Professor Ruth Merttens. She feels that that teaching place value in two-place decimals, decomposition and the 24 hour clock should not be taught at Y3 or Y4 but left until Y5 and Y6 when most children will have developed greater maturity and mathematical understanding. She also feels that some areas should be ditched altogether in the primary curriculum, such as long division and long multiplication of 4-digit numbers by 2-digit numbers and the addition and subtraction of fractions. Many people have called for a removal of Roman numerals (as no other country uses them) and there is concern that addition and subtraction of fractions is just plonked in with no real place in the development of the teaching of fractions.

The response of the Mathematical Association (MA) and the Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM) has been damning. Both organisations argue that the programmes of study are far too ambitious. They believe that a premature formalisation and rapid progress through a content-laden curriculum is not the way forward. In a statement they said, ‘The draft programmes of study for mathematics are not fit for purpose and continue to be in need of much further work. The increased expectations are inappropriate, unrealistic and not informed by research evidence from around the world.’ Read the MA and ATM response in full.


‘Too much too soon’

Expectations are high – but ‘too much too soon’ is an often-heard complaint. Many believe that trying to move children onto harder topics and ideas before they are ready is dangerous because many will fall by the wayside and lose interest. With a bias towards fluency, the new look maths resembles an arithmetic curriculum rather than a mathematics curriculum. The MA and ATM stated that there is a rush to introduce formal representations but this contradicts research evidence that emphasises the importance of developing secure conceptual understanding. The numeracy charity, National Numeracy, says that the government’s plans impose a superficial rigour and its proposals contain serious flaws.

The Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) outlined in its paper ‘Raising the bar: developing able young mathematicians’ that it is mastery of mathematics rather than acceleration through curriculum that provides pupils with secure foundations in mathematical knowledge. ACME’s view is that the key aim of the mathematics curriculum is to ensure that all pupils can solve problems and so the aims set out need to be re-ordered to privilege development of deep conceptual understanding for problem solving. Read the ACME response in full.


The government’s vision for maths

But the government’s reply is that education in England simply has to become more ambitious and that if Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan can have a curriculum that asks more of pupils, then why not us? The Department for Education argues that the programmes of study are not ‘too much too soon’ and will match places like Massachusetts, which perform well in international tests.

The consultation period ended on 16 April and the DfE will publish their response in the summer, and will publish the final National Curriculum ‘early in the autumn term’ to give schools a year to prepare for first teaching from September 2014.

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