Do Scottish teachers need to improve their numeracy skills?

A few years ago, Education Consultant and trustee of Reform Scotland, Keir Bloomer stated that to improve the below standard numeracy skills within schools should be tackled through raising the maths entry requirement for Education courses. His reason being that there is such negative stigma surrounding maths that is accepted by society in a way other subjects wouldn’t be regarded – for instance there is shame value in saying you’re bad at grammar, but none in saying you’re bad at maths. To tackle this and the high statistics of pupils failing to meet adequate standards in numeracy tests Bloomer looks to the new generation of teachers; he suggests there is a lack of confidence in teachers which feeds into the culture of accepting inadequate numeracy and thus wants to raise the maths entry requirements to university courses within Scotland for Education courses. Doing so would reduce the tolerance of the poor standards which would have positive knock on effects to the economy, social stability and scientific advancement. The reason I became aware of this idea and notion was because my lecturer, in opposition to it, was asking education students in my university to sit a small test to show that those with he lower maths grades can still do as well, and sometimes better, than those with the higher grade.

As much as I acknowledge his viewpoint I am in opposition. Like my lecturer, I believe the degree of maths required for teaching in a primary school should be of the content and a few levels above to cover pupils who may show affluence and need more of a challenge. Even at the current entry requirements the math content needed is still  way over and above what is being taught in a primary school. Raising the requirements would immediately eliminate many potential student teachers which could result in the education sector losing out on some fantastic teachers. I know that if the requirements listed Higher Maths I would not be in my course and could have resulted in me being rejected from other universities. Although I don’t have a huge amount of confidence in.  my mathematics skills I am  extremely comfortable in the foundation concepts taught in primary school. Moreover, teaching is a creative career as well as an academic one; those who may not be as secondary academic may excel in creative arts and can devise lesson plans away from rope learning more than the academic. With the way the education system is going in Scotland, learning through discovery as opposed to dictation, surely it would be going the wrong way to deter those who shine more in expressive arts teaching?

Not only this, below standard numeracy skills has been addressed within the Curriculum for Excellence in primary schools; it is now mandatory to have an element of numeracy embedded in every learning outcome, be it in topic work, religious education, physical education so on and so forth. Providing constant practice and differing contexts to allow the pupils to fully grasp the concepts. Tackling the negative stigma surrounding maths, the Curriculum for Excellence provides an input for teaching the history of maths to pupils. Teaching pupils about patterns and discoveries in mathematics such as Fibonacci’s numbers and Pascal’s triangle provides a positive role model to the pupils and demonstrates how fascinating numbers and patterns can be. Applying this to how these concepts can be applied into music and art can also provide pupils how transferable numbers and sequences can be and how they are not just limited to sums and equations. See Tool’s Lateralus, a song which infuses Fibonacci’s numbers in the music and lyrics:

Where I do agree there is an issue with attitudes towards maths, my own being one of them, I disagree with raising the bar for student teachers. It could be extremely detrimental to the number of student teacher applicants which could have some negative knock-on effects. Instead of requiring more content to be learned by teachers which won’t be used in the classroom how about building up the confidence of the teachers in their delivery and continuing to emphasise the importance of demonstrating what the knowledge of numeracy can transfer and blossom into.

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