Two Pleas to Maths Teachers at the Start of the School Year - Charlie Stripp (NCETM Director)

Updated: Jan 15

There are two things I’d like to suggest to teachers and school leaders planning maths lessons at the start of this unique school year.

  • Avoid putting pupils under pressure to ‘catch-up.’ Calm consolidation of fundamental maths knowledge is what’s needed.

  • Use any extra one-to-one maths support wisely. This should complement, not replace, timetabled maths lessons.

Avoid talk of ‘catch-up’

With most pupils having missed more than five months of school, I can see teachers might be tempted to speed through topics in a superficial way, and cram in curriculum coverage through instrumental learning. ‘That’ll get them all back on track quickly’, some might think.

I disagree.

Students’ confidence is likely to have been severely dented by missing so much school and, for Years 6 and 11, not being able to sit important exams. Many will be particularly anxious about maths, aware how important the subject is. They might be worried about what they’ve missed or concerned the maths part of their brain has gone rusty. We should recognise this and avoid doing anything to pile on more pressure. Talk of ‘catching-up’ won’t help.

I strongly believe that the key to getting students’ maths education back on track over the new academic year will be working with them sensitively through calm, focused teaching, prioritising the most fundamental maths topics to develop and reinforce key knowledge and ideas. This will increase students’ confidence and ensure new learning can be built on firm mathematical foundations.

This is exactly the approach we have used at the NCETM with our colleagues in Maths Hubs in creating resources and guidance for primary and secondary teachers to meet the particular challenges as schools fully reopen.

The AMSP is taking a similar approach in its extensive additional support for teachers and students of Core Maths and AS/A level Maths and Further Maths.