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Proportions v Magnitudes

October 25th, 2009


In the BBC Website Magazine today is an article about proportions and magnitudes. It made me reflect that we often spend time teaching students how to express numbers in different forms, but rarely attempt to give students an understanding of how the numerical forms differ, and what they represent.

This article is a little heavy on the politics for an average maths classroom, but is perhaps useful for A-level students, and is definitely useful for any teachers teaching the IB, as it has excellent cross-over with theory of knowledge. Worth a look

Another Report about Education

October 16th, 2009


The Cambridge Primary Review today published their recommendations for how the primary curriculum and classroom environment should be arranged. The briefing is an interesting read, the headlines of which can be found on the BBC News website.

As I read the part on SATs I reflected on the way in which the relationship between politics and education continues to work to this day. The review argues that SATs narrow the curriculum focus and put pressure on children unnecessarily. It argues that the concept of standards that underlies the system of SATs is “restricted, restrictive and misleading”. It further argues that assessment of childrens’ learning should be detached from assessment of schools’ accountability.

It is perhaps inevitable that this is how education and politics interact: governments change the way education works with an agenda justified by their electoral mandate, but often with no educational justification to back it up. It can then take a decade or more for evidence to be gathered, arguments to be made and reports to be compiled before the deficiencies of the system can be established to the satisfaction of politicians, and the scheme can be scrapped. Then, another government can come in with their agenda and try again.

I knew that SATs restricted curriculum, failed to assess students reasonably and were a monumental waste of time and money, years ago. I’ve blogged about it before, years ago. Most of the bright, intrested teachers that I’ve met have known similarly. But education is one of the few things that governments with mandates can interfere with almost at will, and the obvious truths for teachers on the ground are difficult to express to people living in the ivory towers of Westminster. It’s about to happen again. I believe that the best we can hope is that they (whoever they are) make a slightly less-bad set of decisions in this next round of reforms.