Maths could be taught better, says report

Primary school teachers are being urged to up their maths game, as a report reveals that half of New Zealand schools could teach the subject better.

The report released by the Education Review Office (ERO) into children's mathematics education has found New Zealand schools lag internationally and nearly half could improve their numeracy teaching of years 4 to 8 pupils, labelling 50 per cent of schools "partially effective".

Its findings are based on reviews of 240 primary schools by ERO and has received a mixed response from Palmerston North school principals. Among its recommendations is a review of the system of using teacher aides rather than experienced teachers to help struggling pupils.

ERO noted raising the achievement of under-performing maths pupils was difficult for schools, and while most were good at identifying strugglers, few schools changed their techniques in response.

Takaro School principal Helena Baker said maths was a subject that many children struggled to learn and incorporating real-life problem-solving into the classroom was a solution used at her school.

"We are amazing at literacy in this country but we're behind when it comes to maths," she said. "[Maths] has become like a language you have to learn and for some students that's tough, it's hard for lots of people. People always say, ‘I'm no good at maths' - and that's why . . . it's more than just learning times tables . . . the foundation of maths in a simple sense is being a critical thinker and it's such a neat thing to develop people's minds."

However, some were surprised at the finding that so many schools were achieving middling results.

Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School principal David Jopson said his school's results were at the highest standard they had ever been.

"I think, from our perspective, which is possibly shared by a lot of local principals, the level of achievement is currently very advanced and the highest I have seen for a number of years."

Use of internet resources and incorporating financial literacy in the curriculum were all new ways of improving maths results for high and low achievers alike, Mr Jopson said.

"There is always going to be a core of children who do need additional help and it is always up to the school to address that. We do that through group teaching, and going back 10 years there were not those opportunities."

Manawatu Standard