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Maths teaching - has it changed?

(11 Posts)
Soapysuds64 Fri 12-Oct-12 21:09:53

I have just been to an open day at a local independent boarding school. The Maths teacher there said that Maths hasn't changed in 30 years, and he could use his old textbooks to teach with now.... I was hmm, but then, I'm not a teacher. Any thoughts?

mrz Sat 13-Oct-12 09:37:08

Obviously the core knowledge hasn't changed but the how is unlikely to be the same as when you were a pupil.

noblegiraffe Sat 13-Oct-12 11:31:35

Pythagoras is still Pythagoras, that hasn't changed in a couple of thousand years. However, education has changed in that time. As has the units of weights, measures (and money if his textbooks are really old!) that we use. Modern textbooks are much more student-friendly, with better pictures and diagrams. We also do more data handling and less geometry and proofs than they used to.

A student who had used ancient textbooks to study for modern exams would be poorly prepared as the style of exams has changed greatly in that time, even if you are looking at IGCSE.

BrianButterfield Sat 13-Oct-12 11:34:28

Maths teaching as I see it on a day to day basis has changed - lessons seem very interactive, more use of technology etc. I'm basing this on teaching next door to a maths room and hearing all their lessons! However I'm sure some old books are still useful - the other day I heard "sir, this book was written before I was born!" when the textbooks were handed out.

trinity0097 Sat 13-Oct-12 16:59:48

I could quite easily teach Maths with ancient textbooks to provide questions, I may teach the method differently, but the questions will still be valid e.g. if you are learning about perimeter there is nothing really that has changed about find the area of a rectangle in the last few hundred years!

Waitforit Sat 13-Oct-12 20:08:04

Trinity - apart from the units of measure! I remember using ancient maths textbooks back in the 90s that had questions with 1/2 pences in them. It was slightly confusing for a 8 year old.

I would be slightly concerned by a teacher who is happy to be doing exactly the same as 30 years ago, I doubt it leads to very inspiring teaching after that length of time.

AChickenCalledKorma Sat 13-Oct-12 20:17:03

Well, the maths that my children are doing at primary school looks quite a bit different and the jargon is different. But we've just had a "parents' guide to maths" session with the staff and when you get down underneath the surface, it's all heading towards doing maths exactly the same way we did it.

However, I feel that the children have a significantly better grasp of why they are doing what they are doing. So all the years spent breaking down into units, tens and hundreds and using all sorts of strangely-named methods to manipulate them mean that when they finally get to do long division and long multiplication, they actually know why on earth they are doing things like carrying the ten etc etc.

I'd be a bit hmm about a comment like that from a teacher and would want to try and suss out whether it's because he's a dry old codger who thinks he doesn't have anything to learn, or whether it's because he's refreshingly free of gimmickry and teaches the basics really well. I don't know how you would find that out, though!

toomuchicecream Thu 18-Oct-12 19:25:18

Maths might not have changed, but children have. As has our understanding of how children learn Maths. There has been loads of research over the last 20 or 30 years, hence the introduction of new/different methods, all designed to enhance children's understanding so that they know why they do things rather than just following a set of instructions blindly the way I was taught. When I was following a sequence of instructions I had learnt to follow without any understanding, I would have no idea why the answer was wrong if I missed out a step. We also know far more about the benefits of teaching in a practical/visual way to help more children understand what is going on. And children are now so much more used to visual stimulus (TV, computers, games consoles) that they will find a "chalk and talk" teaching style harder to access.

albachiara Thu 18-Oct-12 21:11:57

I thinks the way Maths is taught now is different, but not necessarily better.

Maybe in Primary school some teachers try to explain the why, but I think that there are some teachers that do not know the why themselves. If I'm correct, you need only a C in GCSE Maths to teach in Primary School (please tell me I'm wrong!). It's not that hard to get a C in GCSE Maths. And if you get only a C in GCSE Maths you don't really understand the why in Maths.

In Secondary school a lot of "tricks" are shown to the students. These "tricks" do not need much understanding at all, but if you learn them, you can get the correct answer. It's not always the teachers' fault. The teachers have to make sure that as many students as possible pass the exam/reach a certain level, so they take shortcuts. And sometimes there isn't much time during the year to cover the whole syllabus, so some concepts are not explained deeply enough, otherwise the rest of the syllabus cannot be finished in time.

If I could choose, I would prefer my children to be taught Maths the way I was taught (especially in Secondary school) 25 years ago, rather than the way it is taught now. And if you ask any university lecturer in Maths or Engineering, they will tell you that the understanding of Maths of today's students (with an A in A level Maths) is embarassing (not for all students, but for most of them).

Maybe you are lucky, and in the school you are mentioning they teach old-style Maths (with geometric proofs, where you have to think how you draw conclusions etc.)!!

If you are bored, you might want to read this: [http://www.maa.org/devlin/lockhartslament.pdf]
Not really that relevant to your post, but it talks about how Maths is taught today.

PS: I like Maths a lot

albachiara Thu 18-Oct-12 21:13:06

I think, not I thinks!

JugglingNStruggling Thu 18-Oct-12 23:09:35

albachiara some of my kids are in primary school and I despair
the teacher does not use the chanting of tables because some kids mime and therefore wont learn them
for multiplication they use the grid method
for subtraction they use some new method which means you have to borrow from a million in order to subtract 1

I do wonder what the maths capability of the average primary school teacher is

The sad thing is that children from less able backgrounds rely on schools to perform

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