Interesting question from an Eton 1950's entrance exam. Watch

Mr M
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(Original post by ForGreatJustice)
I think a big issue with maths teaching, and teaching in genereal, is that the money isn't sufficient to attract new people to the job. It needs to become much more competitive to get a job as a teacher, so teaching standards will rise and specifications won't have to be dumbed down further. The UK GCSE and A-level are at risk I believe of becoming a joke on the international stage.
There are many hundreds of vacancies for maths teachers nationally. If every single mathematics graduate opted to go into teaching, it still would not solve the problem.

I had a French exchange student in my Year 11 class a week ago. She commented (in faltering English) that she could not believe how easy the stuff I was teaching was (I was revising trigonometry with Set 3 Year 11 working at GCSE Grade C/B level).

When our English Year 11 student went over to France for her visit, the French school placed her with a Year 9 class. They were apparently studying fractional and negative indices (Grade A at GCSE).

This suggests we are failing to keep up with our European partners.
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SimonM
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(Original post by Mr M)
This suggests we are failing to keep up with our European partners.
Reminds me of when I went to school in Sweden for a week when I was around 7. They were in their first year of school (or something like that I can't remember the specifics) but I still hadn't encountered most of what they were doing (and to say that they were taught the subject in a foreign language to them only impressed me further)
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Mr M
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(Original post by SimonM)
And the NUT need to lose some of their power. Fixing prices across all subjects leads to a surplus of teachers in English and humanities and a serious shortage in maths and physics.
I think the perceived strength of the teaching unions is a bit of a myth. Teachers are currently receiving pay increases well below the rate of inflation and, although the NUT balloted their members for a strike and received a mandate to do so, they did not have the stomach for a fight.

Teachers are public sector workers and this entitles them to a national pay scale. You could not have differential pay depending on which subject you taught without completely revamping the whole structure of UK education.

What I mean is, as things stand, you do not train to teach mathematics, you train to teach. If you have a degree in media studies and a school is prepared to employ you to teach mathematics, you become a mathematics teacher.
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SimonM
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(Original post by Mr M)
Teachers are public sector workers and this entitles them to a national pay scale. You could not have differential pay depending on which subject you taught without completely revamping the whole structure of UK education.
Surely we agree that this is necessary anyway in order to bring up the standard of mathematics in the country?

What I mean is, as things stand, you do not train to teach mathematics, you train to teach. If you have a degree in media studies and a school is prepared to employ you to teach mathematics, you become a mathematics teacher.
Which is exactly why there is a problem

Edit I breathed a sigh of relief when I realised that the last 10 pages are references. Thoroughly disheartening stuff... Shame that most of those arguments are predicated on the fact that we need mathematicians for quantitative work in the city, not a popular topic at the moment...

I think the US is having a similar problem (though nowhere near as major - http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf)
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Mr M
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(Original post by SimonM)
Surely we agree that this is necessary anyway in order to bring up the standard of mathematics in the country?

Which is exactly why there is a problem
You have to be extremely careful to manage change.

For example, the Government found it impossible to recruit enough Modern Foreign Languages teachers a few years ago so they addressed the problem by removing the statutory requirement for every pupil to study a MFL. The result was that, over the last five years, the numbers of pupils opting to study a language has collapsed.

We could move to a situation where it becomes politically expedient for mathematics to become an option subject.
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Mr M
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(Original post by SimonM)
I think the US is having a similar problem (though nowhere near as major - http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf)
I have saved that to my desktop to read properly later.

You might like to browse through the exam questions at the back of the Reform report.
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SimonM
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(Original post by Mr M)
We could move to a situation where it becomes politically expedient for mathematics to become an option subject.
So therefore, to ensure that it still gets taught, we should just reduce the levels of it in school?
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Mr M
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(Original post by SimonM)
So therefore, to ensure that it still gets taught, we should just reduce the levels of it in school?
I have no solution really. Students are getting lots of maths at the moment. They get a guaranteed statutory minimum of one hour per day in primary school and it hasn't made them any better at it!

Possibly quality rather than quantity has some merit.

To be perfectly honest, the single step that politicians could take to genuinely improve standards is to abolish the policy of "inclusion".

http://oldandrew.edublogs.org/2008/0...ment-database/

http://oldandrew.edublogs.org/2008/0...ent-exclusion/

http://oldandrew.edublogs.org/2008/0...ment-database/

http://oldandrew.edublogs.org/2007/0...de-against-me/

http://oldandrew.edublogs.org/2007/0...ting-terrored/
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Hancock orbital
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(Original post by Mr M)
I have saved that to my desktop to read properly later.

You might like to browse through the exam questions at the back of the Reform report.
Where is the Reform report? :confused:
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SimonM
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(Original post by Mr M)
To be perfectly honest, the single step that politicians could take to genuinely improve standards is to abolish the policy of "inclusion".
I completely agree, but what would you suggest doing with those excluded?
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Mr M
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(Original post by SimonM)
I completely agree, but what would you suggest doing with those excluded?
The UK used to have behavioural support units i.e. we had the option to shut the completely off-the-wall students up in a room together somewhere as an inevitable prelude to a criminal career.

The advantage: The 80% of students who really want to learn get a proper chance to do so. A further 17% will settle down if the ringleaders are removed and go on to benefit from greatly improved life chances.

The disadvantage: 3% of pupils are effectively completely written off. Some of these children may well have genuinely horrendous personal circumstances and their behaviour is simply a manifestation of their dreadful upbringings. A large number, of course, have no excuse and are simply evil.
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Mr M
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(Original post by Hancock orbital)
Where is the Reform report? :confused:
http://www.reform.co.uk/documents/Th...athematics.pdf
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ukdragon37
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(Original post by Mr M)
The UK used to have behavioural support units i.e. we had the option to shut the completely off-the-wall students up in a room together somewhere as an inevitable prelude to a criminal career.

The advantage: The 80% of students who really want to learn get a proper chance to do so. A further 17% will settle down if the ringleaders are removed and go on to benefit from greatly improved life chances.

The disadvantage: 3% of pupils are effectively completely written off. Some of these children may well have genuinely horrendous personal circumstances and their behaviour is simply a manifestation of their dreadful upbringings. A large number, of course, have no excuse and are simply evil.
What about those who are clearly gifted? I'm tutoring an eleven year old in Higher Maths (somewhere between AS and A2) right now and she doesn't get the teaching time she needs because of obvious timetable clashes. In fact nobody in our school who did maths early and still kept all other subjects got proper lessons. Now in the case of that eleven year old I foresee that she's not going to get any properly taught lessons at all during her school life just because she's ahead of everybody else. Surely that's not right?
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Mr M
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(Original post by ukdragon37)
What about those who are clearly gifted? I'm tutoring an eleven year old in Higher Maths (somewhere between AS and A2) right now and she doesn't get the teaching time she needs because of obvious timetable clashes. In fact nobody in our school who did maths early and still kept all other subjects got proper lessons. Now in the case of that eleven year old I foresee that she's not going to get any properly taught lessons at all during her school life just because she's ahead of everybody else. Surely that's not right?
Well I'm not a huge fan of acceleration to that degree because your young learner may well achieve academic readiness for university in her early teens before she has attained the emotional maturity and life skills to benefit properly from the experience. This will lead to her 'threading water' for two or three years and may result in her becoming disaffected with her education.

Normally I would encourage you to take the time to explore mathematics at a lower level in greater depth with her. However, she must be unusually able.

You might like to set her problems from the NRICH site.

http://nrich.maths.org/public/monthindex.php?mm=3

These rich starting points provide opportunity for investigation and discussion.

http://www.risps.co.uk/

Unfortunately, most schools are structured to accommodate students by age group rather than natural potential. There is a move towards 'personalised learning' for every student and the mantra of this is "stage not age". In reality, it is likely to mean nothing more than all students may be allocated a mentor to meet with each term for an hour or so.
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SimonM
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A general point which Mr M might not agree with though is the Mathematical Olympiads - if you find some interest in her for those she will be able to find problems which require any level of knowledge but are exceptionally difficult
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Mr M
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(Original post by SimonM)
A general point which Mr M might not agree with though is the Mathematical Olympiads - if you find some interest in her for those she will be able to find problems which require any level of knowledge but are exceptionally difficult
No, I agree, I cannot think of anything else that is likely to provide her with a sufficient level of challenge in a year or two unless she is whisked away to University early.
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SimonM
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(Original post by Mr M)
No, I agree, I cannot think of anything else that is likely to provide her with a sufficient level of challenge in a year or two unless she is whisked away to University early.
Not even in a year or too if she is that good. Terrance Tao was doing exceptionally well at the IMO aged 14 (but then he broke all of your rules and headed of to university. I don't think anyone can argue that he came out of that badly)
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Mr M
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She could join the Society of Young Mathematicians?

It is inexpensive.

http://www.syms.org.uk/
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SimonM
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If as a mentor you want a great resource for them: http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/

Another example of the states beating us in education of the gifted (don't get me started on why their system is soo much better (for the top I don't know about the rest))
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ukdragon37
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(Original post by SimonM)
Not even in a year or too if she is that good. Terrance Tao was doing exceptionally well at the IMO aged 14 (but then he broke all of your rules and headed of to university. I don't think anyone can argue that he came out of that badly)
Unfortunately I don't think she's as good as Terence Tao. In fact I'm quite scared this accelerated learning is not making her understand the underlying maths but just so she can pass her exams early. I gave her a relatively easy question to do once (find algebraically the exact values of \sqrt{2+\sqrt{2+\sqrt{2+...}}}) that required nothing more than GCSE knowledge and she couldn't do it without plenty of hints. Another pupil I'm tutoring (at the same level) was on compound angle formulae before I got a nasty surprise that he didn't know what SOHCAHTOA is. They'll no doubt get a good grade in their exams but I'm very afraid they are not getting a solid foundation underneath what they are learning. A lot of this I blame on their parents as well, they are both quite pressurised to pass their exams quickly.
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