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Education Round Up

Hello. I’m Colin Beveridge and I’m stealing Christian’s round-up introduction, since we’ve had a handful of links of teaching and learning sent our way. Let’s get this show on the road!

The thing that drives me craziest as a tutor is when I hear a parent laughingly say “I was never any good at maths.” Calvin – who would never say such a thing – points us at research showing why such utterances are such a bad idea: students whose parents and teachers are frightened of maths develop maths anxiety of their own. [Extremely long, foul-mouthed rant redacted].

In news that’s less judgemental and more developmental, researchers at Duke have found evidence that number sense in infancy predicts later mathematical ability – babies who understand numbers tend to become children who do maths well. There’s a good summary of the work at Plus Maths.

Somewhat further along the educational scale, Michael Grove, with a very important R in his name, points us at this rallying call to encourage more students to study maths and science so that the economy can recover more quickly. I agree that it’s a Good Thing to have more students taking STEM subjects, but I’m puzzled by Mr Cable’s assertion that we have ‘relatively low’ numbers of post-16 students in the sciences: maths, biology, psychology and chemistry are four of the top five most popular choices at A-level, and even physics is at number 9; I’m also pondering how long it’s going to take the choices of students picking their courses now are going to improve the economy. All the same: we need more engineers. Encourage them!

Do you remember, about a year ago, Michael’s near-namesake, the Secretary of State for Education, made a big hoopla about making the skills tests for trainee teachers more rigorous? Just so you know, the DoE has quietly dropped those plans, deciding that they’ve already done enough. I’m not convinced the numbers show what they purport to show…

… but this may be an example of what Stephen O’Brien sent us: the provocatively-headlined The Smarter You Are, The Stupider You Are from NPR. Research from Yale shows that people with an existing political viewpoint are more likely to make mathematical mistakes when the statistics contradict their biases. The article concludes:

We should aim to train our children not to be good calculators, but to be good thinkers. Education should aim for good judgment. And while there are rules for weighing the implications of empirical data, there are no hard-and-fast rules for being a good judge.

… and only an idiot would argue with that.

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