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Numeracy In Primary Schools Essay

1398 words - 6 pages

Numeracy in primary schools

Numeracy is very important in primary schools today, with mental
calculations being a central part of the mathematics curriculum. These
mental methods of calculation should be encouraged from an early age,
mathematics is used in our everyday lives without many of us
realising; checking our change at the shops and leaving the house in
order to arrive at school on time.

It is advised that Numeracy lessons start with a 5-10 minute starter
of oral or mental calculation work, working as a whole class to
rehearse, sharpen and develop the children’s skills. Various ways can
be used to sharpen these skills including counting in steps of
different sizes, practising mental calculations and the rapid recall
of number facts; this can be done through playing interactive number
games ‘a number one less than a multiple of 5’ etc.

Mental calculations are introduced to children in the autumn term of
year 1 at a basic level of addition and subtraction. In key stage 2
these mental calculations have become more complex; children include
multiplication and division according to the National Numeracy

However, these mental calculation strategies are not as straight
forward as just asking the class a question in order to get a
response, individualisation or ‘over-differentiation’ in the teaching
of mental mathematics has been hailed as a major barrier to the
effective learning. It is clear from this statement from Professor
David Reynolds that individualisation is indeed an obstacle:

“We’re clear about what went wrong. Methods of teaching introduced in
the 70’s and 80’s, had deleterious effects on maths in particular. All
the research agrees that the one thing that badly affects performance
in maths is letting children work on their own.”

(Times Educational Supplement, 10 July 1998)

This idea by Reynolds was supported by classroom observational
studies. These studies noted that allowing children to work as an
individual provided many opportunities for avoidance strategies. Holt
(1984) introduced the idea of ‘fence straddlers’ these were pupils who
prefers to leave the thinking to other students, they tended to; “produce
a mime of tortured contemplation while waiting for someone else to
respond”. Measor and Woods (1984) introduced ‘knife edgers’ these were
children who preferred, to a majority, to leave the thinking to
others. However they went as far as to raise their hands, showing
their participation in the lessons, but timing their participation so
it was unlikely that they would be asked for the answer. Lastly we
have ‘easy riders’ these were devised by Galtan and Wilcocks (1983)
these pupils developed the idea and skill of working at the slowest
pace possible. It was also noted that in mathematics it was not
unusual for “as many as 80 per cent of the pupils to be engaged in
easy riding”.

Possible due to this research many teachers find that it is helpful to

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