Kiwi kids are failing to grasp maths fundamentals

Pardon the cynicism, but why on earth would the Ministry of Education release a report late on a Friday before a long weekend, if not to bury bad news?

The National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement 2013 found that only 41 percent of [approximately 2000] Year 8 students achieved at Level 4 or higher on the KAMSI assessment. The curriculum expectation at Year 8 is that students will be working solidly at Level 4.

It is hardly any wonder that older primary school children are failing to grasp maths fundamentals such as fractions and decimals. Too many of them are still muddling their way through the list of whole number strategies, such as “doubling and having”, “tripling and thirding”. Assuming they have already learned how to perform column-based multiplication (which many of them haven’t), their time would be better spent experiencing decimals, fractions and percentages in a variety of ways. And I don’t mean colouring in pictures of fractions; I mean learning how to actually do maths with these numbers.

A curriculum that emphasises practice and mastery of the basics would give all children, regardless of their ethnicity or socio-economic background, the best chances of success with maths. Just look at what one Decile 1 school teacher and her students, mostly Pasifika and Maori, achieved in just five months.

We don’t have to wait for the Ministry to tell our teachers what to do; we can’t afford to. The path ahead is obvious. Let’s just get on with it.

Dr Audrey Tan, Mathmo Consulting
May 2015

Report finds Kiwi kids are failing to grasp maths fundamentals – National – NZ Herald News
Maths standards achieved by New Zealand children are sliding dramatically between their fourth and eighth years at school. – New Zealand Herald