Numeracy Hour `Harms Grasp of Mathematics'

By Cassidy, Sarah | The Independent (London, England), January 5, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Numeracy Hour `Harms Grasp of Mathematics'

Cassidy, Sarah, The Independent (London, England)

THE INTRODUCTION of the numeracy hour into primary schools may have damaged children's long-term understanding of mathematics, according to government-funded research.

The quick-fire mental arithmetic sessions and whole-class teaching of the Government's National Numeracy Strategy may have taught children "bad learning habits" and undermined their long- term understanding of the subject, the study by the Mathematics Education Review Group at London University's Institute of Education concluded.

Primary school pupils' test scores have increased in mathematics since the introduction of the strategy's daily maths lesson in 1999.

But this improvement may be more likely to stem from pupils being "taught to the test" than from any underlying improvement in their mathematical understanding, according to Chris Kyriacou and Maria Goulding, of the University of York, who led the research.

The scheme's attempts to get children to learn strategic thinking through whole-class teaching have failed and may have damaged the learning of many children, the study found. "There is some evidence to indicate that the increased use of traditional whole-class teaching with `pace' is in fact undermining the development of a more reflective and strategic approach to thinking about mathematics, and may be creating problems for lower attaining pupils," the report found.

The National Numeracy Strategy was introduced in England in 1999 for five to 11-year-olds. Its central feature is a daily "numeracy hour", using methods that have been successful in countries including Switzerland and Hungary.

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