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Know your times tables

The Press ran a short piece of mine on Rose’s numeracy report. It’s online here. I quoted from some of the supportive emails that the Initiative has received on the report. Enjoy!

Auckland University research fellow in data analytics Dr Matthew Courtney told us, “Before working at The University of Auckland, I taught junior mathematics at secondary school level. I found that a great many students, even in the top streams, lacked the basics. Because of this, very few could move onto more sophisticated maths. Without heavy remedial work, many of these students were destined for failure. Your work represents a move in the right direction.”

Massey University chemist and distinguished professor Peter Schwerdtfeger won last year’s Rutherford Medal – New Zealand’s highest honour in the sciences. He told us, “We are destroying a whole generation of students with these new sociologically inspired methods. The level of maths competence has been in decline for years, and we are having to fix these problems at university.”

Remedial maths tutor Dorinda Duthie, who has to help clean up the mess, added: “The teaching methods used in the Early Numeracy Project are fundamentally flawed. They simply do not work for most children. The top 10 to 20 per cent are fine, but they would do well regardless of the way in which they are being taught. The horizontal layout for addition and subtraction is confusing and ignores the basic concept of moving to the next column when a total is above 10.”

Lower Hutt high school maths teacher Jon Nash told us: “I feel I spend ages undoing poor teaching from earlier years. I am also a huge advocate of rote learned basic facts.”

Those who have read our report know that we are not calling for any simplistic return to rote-learning on its own. We think students need to memorise basic facts so that they can go on to use the more interesting approaches more successfully. Rote learning is a necessary complement to greater mathematical understanding. It is the base on which approaches like those added during the Numeracy Project trial could really build. But we do need that basic foundation.

About Eric Crampton (88 Articles)
I'm Head of Research with the New Zealand Initiative.

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