Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Why Teachers Shouldn't Be Pencil-Pushers in Maths

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Why Teachers Shouldn't Be Pencil-Pushers in Maths

Article excerpt

Despite the ubiquity of growth mindset theory, schools still ban pens from maths lessons, giving the impression that mistakes are negative

I've frequently said to people that I'm really a middle school teacher trapped in a primary school deputy's body. That's not to say that I don't love my work, or regret my role in primary, but rather that I have always felt just a little like an outsider.

I'm sure the same is true of many groups in schools: the early years practitioners who sit through meetings about the key stage 1 and 2 curriculum; the part-time music specialists trying to fathom how a maths data target could possibly fit into their appraisal cycle; and perhaps none more so than the supply teachers who never quite belong anywhere.

Some beliefs are almost universally held in primary schools - beliefs that I've never quite ascribed to, but which it seems almost sacrilegious to argue against. Over time, those things seem to have diminished: it's no long considered completely evil to expect children to look after their own belongings in a simple pencil case. However, some views are still held firmly in primary schools.

It seems that pride in classroom displays still means that teachers spend a fortune from their own money, and something approaching half a school's budget, on laminating pouches, all to ensure that no inch of wall space can be seen. Similarly, the suggestion that children are perhaps not best served by sitting in groups of four to six around common tables remains a surefire way of making oneself unpopular in a primary staffroom. But there's one thing that sticks out as far as I'm concerned.

According to a little poll I did on Twitter recently, almost nine in 10 primaries insist that their pupils use a pencil for maths right up to Year 6. This has always struck me as odd, given that we also invest so much time in handwriting with pens and even inventing things like pen licences. …

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