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Primary Maths teaching inadequate for secondary

(45 Posts)
kazh50 Fri 26-Jun-15 11:37:04

Just a heads up really. Maths teaching in Primary schools appears to be woefully inadequate these days. Throughout my son's years in primary school (rated exceptional), I constantly queried the low level of maths being taught even though my son was always on the "top table". Even in years 5 and 6, they were still languishing with number lines, the grid method for multiplication and division by using subtraction. No sign whatsoever of long multiplication and long division that I clearly remember doing in my primary school many years ago, nor basic algebra either. At parents evenings, was always told that these were the new methods and far better, teachers had no concerns with my son, and he left at year 6 with a 6 in his maths SATS, so we accepted what we were told. When I asked why long multiplication and long division weren't being taught, I was told by different teachers that it's no longer necessary at Primary level.

He's now just completed his second year at secondary school, and has suffered a painfully low score (under 50%) in his end of year maths tests. This is despite a 95% score in the year 1 secondary end of year test, and 80% plus in all other subjects end of year tests. Obviously, I've spoken to the teacher about what has gone wrong, who has told me that my son has grasped all the new subject material taught this year, his workings are sound, but has lost marks in virtually every area on the test because of an inability to do basic number crunching, in particular, anything that required multiplication or division beyond simple small numbers. The teacher said that this is very common as there's a "gap" between the relatively low standard at primary school (even to level 5/6 SATS) and the expected level at the start of secondary. Basically, at primary, they're only working with small numbers, ie typically multiplies of 1-10, so barely ever get answers of over 100, yet at secondary, numbers are often in the hundreds or thousands. With smaller numbers, it's easy for kids to guess or use workarounds to find an answer but they can't do that when the numbers are bigger.

Good thing is that this has now been identified and I can rectify the problem by doing lots of drills over the Summer, so he should start back in September fully competent in these basics. Such a shame that the teachers don't actually tackle the issue - primary teachers clearly don't think it's their job, nor do the secondary teachers.

noblegiraffe Fri 26-Jun-15 11:43:07

I'm not sure you can extrapolate your DS's experience to all primaries and secondaries.

Presumably if the other kids in the school are doing better than your DS then their number crunching skills are better than his despite the same primary education.

MadAboutMathsMum Fri 26-Jun-15 11:45:12

He got 95% at end of year 7 maths test, but 50% at end of year 8?
Sounds like a gap in teaching in year 8 rather than in primary.

Lonecatwithkitten Fri 26-Jun-15 11:48:22

I think you will find a huge variety did do long division and multiplication in year 4 and worked in tens of thousands from that time on.

letsghostdance Fri 26-Jun-15 11:51:36

Thank you so much for your expert opinion and your unapologetic attack on primary teachers hmm

TeenAndTween Fri 26-Jun-15 11:58:26

tbh, if it really is 'very common' the wouldn't the secondary be making sure they teach the required skills, even if the primary hasn't?

Also, note that the recent changes to the NC have made primary maths 'harder'.

NaughtToThreeSadOnions Fri 26-Jun-15 11:59:31

Exactly Mad he was alright for the first year, the year after he left primary school, in fact more than alright wasn't he OP, yet his result goes dos in his second year and you blame a school he was last taught by 2 years ago rather than his current school.

You say it yourself OP, nor do the secondry teachers, that's who's job it is, to build and progress the children's knowledge to higher/bigger numbers. Maybe the teacher was making excuses!

Also, did your son get the highest grade out of all year 8, because presumably if not all the other children went to primary school followed the same NC may even have gone to the same primary school as your son, may even have been in the same class as your son had exactly the same teaching at primary yet if they got higher grades I don't think you can admonish all primary maths teaching.

Also why haven't you or the teacher picked this up since September, do you look at his homework is his class work marked? Surely to be getting that lower grade he's been falling behind all year, and it would have come up at parents evenings. It does sound like a gap in year 8.

BreconBeBuggered Fri 26-Jun-15 12:00:31

No, they are not typically working only with smaller numbers at primary school.

I'd be looking at the Y8 teaching rather than accepting poor excuses about why he has gone backwards without any apparent intervention. No harm in going back to basics with your DS, though.

Moreisnnogedag Fri 26-Jun-15 12:03:12

How come he did fine in the first year? Surely if primary was so woeful then the first year is when he would have struggled?

titchy Fri 26-Jun-15 12:57:58

Ha! The Maths teacher and maybe your ds has fed you a line and you've fallen for it!

teeththief Fri 26-Jun-15 13:05:33

Basically, at primary, they're only working with small numbers, ie typically multiplies of 1-10, so barely ever get answers of over 100, yet at secondary, numbers are often in the hundreds or thousands.

Certainly not true of my year 3 DD. As others have said, it seems strange that he was fine last year (the year after finishing primary) but has dropped back after 2 years at secondary. It's laughable that the secondary school teachers are blaming the primary teaching.

kesstrel Fri 26-Jun-15 13:15:23

Kazh50 - beware of generalizing from one example; maths teaching in primary schools is quite variable. However, I am surprised that so many of the responses above ignore your account of what the Year 8 teacher explicitly told you.

I've read a number of blogs by secondary maths teachers criticizing those primary schools that don't teach the standard algorithms, (like long division), instead relying on multiple methods, which some children find confusing; and that don't give sufficient practice because they think it is unnecessary or they dislike "drill". For some children it takes a lot more practice than others to get fluent in procedural knowledge. And if children aren't fluent in procedural knowledge, they struggle because limitations of working memory mean they are trying to do/remember too much when they are tackling more advanced maths problems. Cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham has written about this; he has a blog if you'd like to look at it.

This is one reason why the government is trialling "mastery" maths based on Singapore methods, where care is taken that one skill is learned very thoroughly before moving on to the next. It's early days, yet but the trial looks promising.

Cedar03 Fri 26-Jun-15 13:28:06

My year 3 daughter has been learning multiplication methods for tackling larger numbers and long division this year. As well as learning her times tables.

NaughtToThreeSadOnions Fri 26-Jun-15 13:53:59

Kesstral - we're not ignoring it just saying that as the child was fine the year after leaving primary school and failing 12 months later it's an excuse by the year 8 teacher.

A teacher isn't going to go yes I'm a crap teacher. I refer you to myself and others that have gone why has their not been an intervention before the yr 8 if the ops child was struggling so much. They're going to go oh they lack knowledge it's the primary schools fault. Also what the yr 8 teacher explitaly told the op is simply not true. I know pupils are dealing with thousends in yr 2, many posters have said wait it's NC for mulitiplication and long division in yrs 3 and 4. So basically the yr 8 teach explitaly lied! That's why we're ignoring what they said! We know it's not true!

Cloud2 Fri 26-Jun-15 13:54:29

If there are a good set of math text books, which is well designed by the most experienced math teacher, that would certainly solve the unequal teaching problems. The book would have the concept , the example question and then followed by practice. So even the math teaching is not good, the student can catch up by their own. I am not saying the math teaching is generally not good. But there would be sometimes not very good ones.
DS1 is quite good at math, he has always been the top of his class for math, and just got a distinction in intermediate math Olympiad recently. I found his primary math education was not good. Of course , we later found out his primary school has gone from good to require improvement by the time he left. That�s probably is the reason, as the head teacher left in his year 3. He often was given very simple stuff to do at each start of the term, then teacher would find out he was good at math, then he was given hard stuff. He sometime got stuff in year 5 which he has done in year 3 already. I always worry if there were anything missing in his foundation knowledge, as there wasn�t an effective recording system. If there are a good text books, this won�t happen. Everything you need to learn is there. I did bought some practice books for him , as to prepare him for an independent school exam. I think these practice has helped him a bit, at least filled any gap left.

CatMilkMan Fri 26-Jun-15 14:02:20

Yes OP you know more about primary education than the thousands of teachers and thousands of others that work in primary education permanently and work in many schools with many children.
I'm so glad that your 1 experience was enough for you to be able to enlighten us.

MilkRunningOutAgain Fri 26-Jun-15 14:56:06

Well this thread proves there are a lot of jumpy primary teachers out there. Why oh why get so upset about it?

enderwoman Fri 26-Jun-15 15:03:51

My son in y4 can do long multiplication and long division (2 digit times 2 digit/ 4 digit divided by 2 digit) but is highly unlikely to get a level 6 in y6.
I have 3 kids and the older 2 learned basic algebra in y5. They left primary with level 4 and 5 in maths.
To me it sounds like your son was coached well to pass the level 6 test in primary but was not a level 6 really.

I agree with you that there should be more number crunching taught- fractions, decimals,mental maths etc

Unexpected Fri 26-Jun-15 15:23:54

Well this thread proves there are a lot of jumpy primary teachers out there. Why oh why get so upset about it? Are you the OP returning under a different name? As the OP either namechanged or joined MN specially to tell us that her personal experience of her son's maths teaching in primary could be extrapolated to all primary maths teaching?

I am not a teacher of any description but I would be very upset if someone cast around assumptions about a whole subject based on one child. The OPs post doesn't even make sense. Her son's first year at secondary (presumably using skills from primary school unless they managed a whole year without multiplication or division) was fine, his second year he has fallen back yet the secondary teacher says it is the fault of primary. Could it be that the secondary teaching is inadequate or that the OP's son is just not putting the effort in but of course it's easier to blame the unsuspecting primary teacher?

MilkRunningOutAgain Fri 26-Jun-15 15:30:03

No I am not the OP. Erm, point proved?

BreconBeBuggered Fri 26-Jun-15 15:36:01

Not really; Unexpected states they are not a teacher. Neither am I.

Step forward any jumpy primary teachers.

TeenAndTween Fri 26-Jun-15 15:49:46

I'm not a teacher either. My eldest has just completed secondary school, and my experience of maths at both primary and secondary have been different to the OPs. I don't like generalised posts based on one anecdote.

CecilyP Fri 26-Jun-15 15:57:45

The teacher said that this is very common as there's a "gap" between the relatively low standard at primary school (even to level 5/6 SATS) and the expected level at the start of secondary.

If that was the case it would surely have become apparent in Y7, yet even at the end of Y7, OP's DS did exceptionally well gaining 95% in the end year exam. The "gap" seems to have opened between Y7 and Y8; hardly the fault of the primary school. (Not a primary teacher either; jumpy or otherwise!)

Teaguzzler Fri 26-Jun-15 15:58:33

You say 'primary schools'. What evidence do you have that this is happening outside your own experience? If you google the national curriculum you will see exactly what children are being taught in primary schools. Have you researched this?

NaughtToThreeSadOnions Fri 26-Jun-15 16:15:09

Not a teacher of any description, not that good at maths, absolutely no reason to jump to the defence of primary schools.

How is your pount proved do you know everyone's profession.

Maybe we're getting upset because the OP has writen an inconsistent post, no one has explained how the child did so well in his first year but crap in his second, and it's the primary schools fault.

Plus many of us take an interest in what the children are learning which seems more than the op has because surely she'd know that what the teacher said isn't in line with what has to be taught in primary schools by NC.

Prehaps were upset cos it was a massive generalisation and we know there's some decent maths teaching going on!

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