Phil Harvey gave a talk on this subject at last November’s MathsJam conference. We liked it so much, we asked him if we could put it on the site. Phil’s kindly written his talk up as an essay for us.
I am 64¼ years old and I’ve been a maths teacher all my working life. In that time things have changed. Long gone are the days when gowned masters would sweep in, silence any murmur with half a raised eyebrow, and delight compliant uniformed schoolchildren with chalk-covered boards of mathematical exposition.
No, you’re right. That never happened outside the covers of Goodbye Mr Chips, even in my day.
The reality then. Schoolchildren have morphed into learners. Exam results rule. Quality (in the sense that Orwell might have used the word) is managed by quality managers. And so our working lives are driven by the pursuit of Ofsted targets, success rates, achievement rates, benchmarks, observation grades, results. And every joyless lesson has its own lesson plan, with aims, objectives, learning outcomes and action points. But above all, those damned results – and every year, year after year, they had to IMPROVE.
Well I was no good at any of this stuff – and consequently I always got on very badly with my managers. Until one year…
An IMA/LMS press release points out that A-level and AS-level Mathematics and Further Mathematics entries are continuing to rise.
The number of A-level Mathematics entries is up 3.3% on last year, with AS Mathematics increasing by 5.1%.
Further Mathematics also continues to grow, with entries increasing by 7.6% at A-level this year and 12.9% at AS.
This means that since 2007 the number of A-level Mathematics entries has risen by 42.7% and in Further Mathematics the increase is even greater at 68%.
The piece also points out that “mathematics A-levels now account for 11.4% of all entries – more than any other subject”. A quote from LMS Education Secretary Dr Tony Gardiner warns that “it is essential that Ofqual’s current review does nothing to undermine this position”.
Press release: A-level results – Mathematics is counting its success.
Recent reports from Ofqual and Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI) highlight positives in the depth of content and takeup of A-Level Mathematics and Further Mathematics but an Ofsted report finds problems in earlier stage mathematics teaching.
An article on the BBC website says that a report by SCORE has found that A-level science exams do not contain enough maths questions to prepare students to progress to science degrees or related jobs.