Monday, 7 April 2014

Maths and Feltag

FELTAG made many sensible recommendations in its recent report. Some are longer term goals but Regulation 1, 2 and 4, are fundamental to improving math learning and employability. Adopting these FELTAG recommendations is an opportunity for the Government to truly improve standards of maths education. The sector must keep abreast of change.

Students need to use technology in maths the way they use technology in real life; in sticking to the old GCSE mantra and introducing weaker qualifications alongside to try & boost L2 achievement, everyone is cheated.

Our students are a generation who have never been ‘offline’, have always been ‘connected’ and use technology the way we breathe. Maths should be taught in a way that reflects this; to engage, stimulate and entice the learner yes; more importantly, to reflect the way maths is used in the world. Business, research, employers expect digital literacy as well as mathematical fluency. So why not combine them?

Every day they use Google; do they understand the algebra behind a search engine? Appreciate the value of calculating the discount on items they buy, of comparing energy prices in their first flat, how to apply ratios of sand & gravel, bulbs for planting, chemicals for making plastic and drug ratios for patients’ weight? Often, no; but they do have a Grade C GCSE.

Students should be encouraged to visualise their calculations, learn how to apply that calculation to other problems, not just to get the right answers. Technology can do this.

There are so many ways to teach maths with technology; Avatars, Robotics, Video problems, Skype, VOOCs, Google hangouts, chatrooms, collaborative places, Apps, IWB’s, MOOCs, Socrative, Simulations, Mobiles, iPads, Tablets; programmes, which allow a student to manipulate curves & equations to demonstrate the relationship, so they could design a new car or new road surface. Solving real problems in a visual, interactive, collaborative way; replicating issues that will be faced in employment.

Dry, sequential, rote learning without context combined with ‘teaching to the test’ can only produce exam passes; we need to produce students who can apply their learning.

Let’s ensure that any curriculum review does not hinder the use of digital technology in teaching, learning and assessment of regulated qualifications; let’s work with awarding bodies & review the maths curriculum, build technology into it, develop a qualification that will allow our students to be employable, mathematically literate, digital experts.

The Government owes our students; the right to mathematical literacy, to be employable, to be taught this fundamental subject in a way that reflects the world we live in, not one that has suede patches on its elbows and chalk in its back pocket.

Maths education is too important to be stuck in the 1960’s; how can we continue to allow them to walk out of a lesson, log onto their Smart Phone and yet still not have the basic maths needed to decide which contract to take out?