HOW DID SINGAPORE BECOME THE WORLD LEADER IN TEACHING MATHS?
In 1986 Singapore was 16thout of 26 in an international study of school maths ability. So the Government of Singapore decided to completely rethink the way mathematics was taught in their schools.
The result was the production of maths textbooks that were strongly visual, for modern children since the arrival of TV, the internet and electronic games have increased eye-brain-hand abilities. Singaporean schools found that children preferred textbooks to more modern teaching methods, such as interactive whiteboards.
Many of the ideas which helped to produce the Singapore maths teaching system came from a study of research produced around the world, particularly the Cockcroft Report commissioned by the British Labour Government in 1978 and published in 1982.
So what was in the Cockcroft Report?
Graphic designer, Andy Psarianos is the founder of the company which produces the “Maths – No Problem” textbooks, which he says are now used in 10% of English schools.
He explains that the Singapore Method emphasises problem-solving. It works with a student’s ability to visualise things, recognise patterns and decide what needs to be done . There is hardly any learning by heart, memorising things or doing sums that don’t make any sense to them. “The aim is to make sure that people understand what is happening,” says Andy,” That it makes sense to students – and is not boring.”
The method that shot Singapore to Number 1 for 3 times over 9 years OECD’s international PISA findings was strongly influenced by the 1982 Cockcroft Report, reports Mark Bolan, Professor of Education at Sheffield Hallam University.
Sowhat happened to The Cockcroft Report back in Britain?
LOOKING BACK IN HISTORY
In 1978 the British Labour Government commissioned an eminent mathematics educator, Wilfred Cockcroft to chair a 3 year comprehensive enquiry into the teaching of mathematics in Primary and Secondary schools in England and Wales. This was published in 1982 as “Mathematics Counts” but became known as “ the Cockcroft Report.”
TIME FOR A NATIONAL, RATIONAL DEBATE, SAYS PAUL
In a rapidly changing world that demands all our attention, lets start basing decisions on education on the up-to-date-evidence of what is needed, suggested Paul Drechsler, President of the Confederation of British Industries for business leaders, in a clear, unambiguous speech to the Association of School and College Leaders.
The CBI speaks on behalf of 190,000 UK businesses which employ nearly 7 million people, so perhaps better than any other group, the CBI knows whether school leavers are being properly equipped for 21st Century life. The CBI wants policy formers to make education in England about more than rote learning, tests and results.
The power of education, said Paul, is to give people not just what they need to operate in today’s workplace, but also to encourage the spirit of enquiry that will allow students to shape the needs of tomorrow.
Business leaders appreciate that teaching jobs are difficult not only because the world is changing, but because of years of moving the educational goal posts in public policy, due to political turf wars. Paul called for an end to the parade of government announcements that make a good headline but don’t make a jot of difference on the big issues – one of which is education.
Academic achievement is important but so is a wider preparation for adult life: schools and the CBI have been saying this for years. Life is not only about memorising facts, said Paul.
Singapore, Finland and the best schools in other countries have had a healthy, open conversation about what they want from their educational system – and it is not a debilitating culture-war-of-attrition that has been dragging on since the 1970s
“Let’s dump the ideology. No more fixation on school structures and exam reform. It’s time for a national, rational debate on how we help our young people succeed. And then let’s reform the curriculum to deliver the results we need.”
Paul continued, “It sounds simple. But here’s what worries me. Perhaps our politicians are too entrenched. Perhaps the ideological commitments hold too firm a grip. Perhaps old habits die hard.”
“We should take ownership. – Let’s persuade our politicians to set up a new Education Commission. This Commission could bypass the turf wars. It should have a broad membership – educational leadership, businesses, young people, parents and politicians – people who understand education and want our country to succeed.”
“Let’s start basing decisions in education on the evidence. Let’s create consensus on what we want from our school and colleges and then give them the support, encouragement and resources they need to deliver. …Get this right and we can help our young people thrive, our economy grow and our society prosper.”
[ref: CBI press statement 9th March 2018]
THE DERBY INTERVENTION
For less than £1 a head, children can be treated – a classroom at a time – by a method developed and used over 12 years by the University of Derby. Checked successfully by human engineer, Dr Lizzie Miles, sent to Derby by the Department of Education.
The Derby Intervention for Maths Anxiety was designed and refined over 14 years by Professor David Sheffield and Dr Tom Hunt of the Department of Psychology, University of Derby. The…
WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE INVISIBLE CRISIS
HOW TO REACH YOUR MP
GO TO the parliament website to find their email address.
In the green window labeled Members of the House of Commons
After keyword [s] enter your post code or MP’s name.
HOW TO REACH A SCHOOL GOVENOR
Telephone the school Switchboard and ask where to find the list of school Governors.
Ask for a list, or go to the school and hand-copy the list.
A BIGGER QUIZ
Distinguished Professor Steve Chinn, specialises in Dyslexia and mathematics/dyscalculia guidance, training, CPD and assessment.
Steve has built an award-winning school for dyslexic boys, he is a spell-binding speaker, he writes brilliant books on Mathematics – a rare ability – and is now an independent international consultant.
Below is a link to Steve’s intriguing quiz, which zero’s in on your result more efficiently than a shorter quiz.
WHO KNOWS MOST?
“Who in Britain knows most about Maths Anxiety?”asked Shirley Conran, at lunch with two mathematicians, both previous advisers to the Government on the Maths Curriculum. With one voice, the two mathematicians said, “ Sue Johnston-Wilder!
Associate Professor Johnston-Wilder works in the Centre for Education Studies at the University of Warwick, where she lectures, writes,researches and organizes conferences for students and teachers on overcoming Maths Anxiety, often working with Dr. Clare Lee of the Open University.
Their slogan is, ”Maths Anxiety is acquired, disabling and treatable.”
Johnston-Wilder agrees with Professor Jo Boaler that “maths, more than any other subject, has the power to crush children’s confidence and to deter them from learning important methods and tools for many years to come”.
From November 2015 to July 2016, Johnston-Wilder and other educational specialists from Warwick University ran a series of one day courses for Further Education teachers, many of whom work as teachers of numeracy or in FE institutions for low-achieving pupils who need extra tuition. There are few maths specialists in FE and levels of Maths Anxiety are high in many FE teachers.
The subsequent Paper – which reported on these courses – was presented virtually to the Annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation in November, 2016 at Seville, Spain. The aim of this Warwick Course was to develop teachers who know explicitly how to develop Maths Resilience in learners and, by developing a group culture of ‘ can do ‘ mathematics, to counter the prevalent culture of Maths Anxiety and maths helplessness in the Western population.
Resilience has been defined as, ‘ Both the capacity to bend without breaking and the capacity, once bent, to spring back. It can be an advantage to learn, early in life, to aim to recover and continue on a positive path after a minor setback [ getting bad marks ] or when faced with a major adversity [ being knifed].
SO WHAT IS MATHS RESILIENCE?
The term, ‘Mathematical Resilience’ grew out of the wider psychological construct of general resilience and it is built on established ideas and research. Johnston-Wilder has written, ‘ Maths Resilience is not a new theory; it is a model rooted in the work of Dweck, Vygotsky, Swann, William, Freudenthal, Bruner, Bandura and Mason. It is an effective and pragmatic structure for raising awareness.
‘We have found that the ideas encapsulated by Mathematical Resilience speak to learners, teachers, parents and others entrusted with overseeing mathematical learning in society.
Maths Resilience consists of five positive attributes which enable learners to engage with, learn and use maths, both at school and beyond. They are briefly: understanding the personal value of maths – which provides motivation; ‘havinging a good attitude to learning, which involves determination and leads to self-confidence; encouraging a growth mindset; understanding how to work hard; and knowing where to find suitable support.
Maths Resilience can free the learner from the anxiety that is in part caused by teaching to test and instead, ensure that learners thoroughly understand each step of any procedure.
Maths Resilience aims at a can-do positive attitude that empowers and energises students. “Can-do ‘ recognizes that it takes time and patience to understand a new concept, and it takes more time to practice it – like the piano, like kicking football goals, like athletics or dancing.
Once students have learned to overcome emotional barriers to learning mathematics, they also acquire empowerment and control. To see their excitement is a joyous and rewarding experience. When you solve a problem, your brain may reward you with a small shot of dopamine, which may account for the happy ‘I got it!’ air punch, which is also a joyous reward for the teacher.