Maths teaching must improve


TO BE HONEST: A parent writes:I have just emerged from another frustrating parent-teacher meeting, the annual five minute event.

On numerous occasions over the past four years, I have highlighted to my daughter’s teachers her less-than-positive attitude towards mathematics which I believe is an impediment to her progression.

I might as well have been Bill Murray in the film Groundhog Day. It was as if I never had these previous conversations. The teacher reacted to it as if she had never been previously told this. I am seriously concerned that the matter is not going to be addressed in her primary school.

I am doing my best to support her at home by ensuring that we do some fun maths activities, such as planning a birthday party on a fixed budget, but there is only so much I can do.

I need the school to step up to the plate and address their shortcomings.

What concerns me more is knowing that a number of other children in her class suffer from the same negative attitude towards maths.

The Department of Education and Skills’ new focus on literacy and numeracy skills will fail to achieve the desired outcome for my daughter and other children like her if their attitude towards maths does not change.

One explanation that has been offered as to why a child’s Drumcondra test scores on maths might drop from one year to the next is that maths gets harder from one year to the next, particularly a key stages in the primary curriculum. As a parent, I do not find that answer acceptable and neither should a teacher.

I firmly believe that schools, in their efforts to tackle the deficit in mathematical skills, need to first identify children’s attitudes towards the subject before any planning to address the deficit in numeracy is undertaken.

Such research needs to be done in a robust way, such as asking the children and probing the rationale behind their response.

I have experience of the recruitment sector and I know what problems are emerging in terms of literacy and numeracy among our jobseeking population.

Maths needs to be fun and relevant, using real-life experience and concrete materials. A serious investment in time and teacher training is required if we are to improve the children’s mathematical skills.

It would also help if the school’s management actually took parents’ concerns seriously and communicated to the parent community how they intend to improve the educational outcomes for children in mathematics.

* This column is designed to give a voice to those within the education system who wish to speak out anonymously. Contributions are welcome; email