Why millions on maths returned little

The NZ Initiative has released a new report – Un(ac)countable – Why Millions on Maths Returned Little.

Some key findings:

  • This report documents the 15-year history of the Numeracy Development Project (the Numeracy Project), a nationwide centrally devised approach for improving maths. The Numeracy Project existed officially as a professional development (PD) programme for teachers in most primary schools in New Zealand between 2000 and 2009. It put more emphasis on teaching children a range of strategies for solving maths problems, with greater emphasis on mental problem solving and less on written methods.
  • New Zealand policymakers have been lamenting the state of maths education for over 30 years. However, maths performance did start to show signs of improvement in the late 1990s, around the same time that many localised teacher PD programmes for maths (that were precursors to the Numeracy Project) were in play. But maths performance has since been in decline.
  • TIMSS 2011 showed that New Zealand students spend much less time memorising basic facts and much more time explaining answers compared to students in the top five performing countries.
  • While the basics (like times tables) are likely limited in use unless they are understood conceptually, they are still important because knowing the basics off by heart helps to free up working memory for children to learn more complex maths.
  • A 2010 study found that a third of new primary school teachers could not add two fractions (7/18 + 1/9).

That is 9/18 or 1/2. Took me around three seconds.

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