Our numeracy crisis


Mathematics is a lot worse. Our 2022 results for maths are down a whopping 15 points since 2018. That is equivalent to about six months of schooling lost in just four years. Since testing began in 2003, we have fallen by 44 points – equivalent to about one and a half years of schooling.

So our 15 year olds today are at the level 13 year olds were in 2003. That is a huge decline.

It is a similar in mathematics. The numeracy project, introduced in the early 2000s, emphasised the learning of “strategies” over basic mathematical knowledge. Again, this is counter to evidence showing that basic number facts, like times tables, need to be learned cold to support further learning. But again, the ministry has failed to follow the evidence. Meanwhile, Singapore has adopted a science-informed approach to teaching mathematics and is enjoying spectacular success.

Oh , strategies over actual knowledge, No wonder we are in trouble.

Some time ago I got some large posters for our dining room with the times tables on them. Very pleased our seven year old can do up to 12 x 12, and our four year old is starting to learn them also.

About 10 years ago, adopted an evidence-based approach to teaching literacy, and a detailed, knowledge-rich curriculum. Their 2018 Pisa scores in mathematics and reading ticked up relative to 2015. That gives us an indication of what we need to do to halt our educational decline.

So we can follow success, with a willing Government.

Some in the education establishment will resist the changes. That is because they are in the grip of the same educational ideology that has led to our present malaise. But how we teach our young people should be determined by evidence, not by ideology or politics.


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