What maths teachers (don't) want
06 Nov 2015
We recently reported on the high degree of uncertainty in maths, arising largely out of the fact that the specifications are all very similar, but the exams are completely unknown. The situation was compounded by the fact that three of the four main exam boards had made their first specimen papers too hard, undermining teachers already low trust in these materials.
There's also something of an issue associated with teaching resources for the new specs though. Exam boards have conducted exhaustive reviews of published textbooks in order to approve them - the situation having been thrown into confusion by Ofqual's and the parliamentary select committee's criticism of the old system. Teachers tell us that they still want approved textbooks, but in general, maths teachers are those for whom a textbook is least important. However, there are lots of other kinds of supporting resources which maths teachers do want.
Maths is a skills-based subject (which is largely why textbooks are lessú important than in other subjects), so teachers want resources which help develop skills, of course. However, maths is a hugely important subject for school performance and, more importantly (teachers say - strongly) for children's life chances. So success at GCSE maths needs a very high level of exam preparation - more so than in other subjects. Textbooks are not well placed for this at the moment because they can't reflect exam-style questions until we've actually seen some.
So what are they looking for? Digital resources seem to offer a great potential since they can be self-marking, differentiated, engaging and so on. But, in our November Talking Heads discussion last night, we picked up a strong sense that schools are becoming rather turned off IT solutions because they haven't really delivered. Tablets seem to be a disappointment and PCs cumbersome. This is partly, they say because IT is now embedded and the focus is moving away from it, so that digital resources are no longer anything special.
Small wonder then that teachers aren't really buying much yet to support the new GCSE maths courses which they're already delivering. it's not that they can't afford them at present (as publishers fear), just that there's nothing much grabbing their attention.
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