Is it OK to say “I’m useless at maths” in the UK?

“Every primary school should have a maths specialist and parents should have a less negative attitude to the subject”

According to the BBC an interim report by Sir Peter Williams says the UK is one of the few developed nations where it is acceptable to say you are “useless at maths”.

Such attitudes will not help children see maths as an essential and rewarding part of their daily lives,

The study suggests the amount of in-service maths training primary teachers receive is inadequate. Although most (I’d assumed it would be all by now) teachers do have the basic requirement in maths for teacher training – GCSE maths at C or above.

All HLTAs and many TAs also have to have maths GCSE in order to even be considered for a job.
The report had a go at parents as well. It says they needed to have a “can-do” attitude to maths and to learn the modern techniques their children were using to help them and give them a love of maths.

So what do we get from this? More initiatives and funding for family learning perhaps? Parents expected to not only support the children whilst they do homework but also to make time themselves to learn the techniques schools are using to teach maths? I’ve been involved in family learning in school before and they are great for those who do get involved. The trouble is it’s never the parents you really need to reach who turn up to them.

One of the biggest contrast I’m seeing at the moment though is between these attitudes and those of some of my Teaching Assistant students. Mostly educated in non-European countries they express a deep love of Maths and a high level of confidence in their own abilities. They have exactly the ‘can- do’ attitude the report wants to promote, understand that maths is vital to children’s learning and actually look forward to numeracy lessons. As far as I can see the main thing they have in common is that they all did the International Baccalaureate.


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