I have said very little in public about the New Zealand flag referendum, apart from suggesting that the referendum should have been funded by the sale of tea towels. If everyone who voted correctly in the first referendum bought a tea towel of their preferred flag for approximately $25, that would have covered the estimated $26 million. Given the Prime Minister’s financial acumen, I’m surprised he didn’t think of that himself.
Instead, New Zealand’s coffers are $26 million poorer and our Prime Minister is still chasing a legacy.
It’s not too late for John Key to leave a legacy. Instead of worrying about New Zealand’s branding and the “billions” a new flag might be worth, he should worry about the 59% of Year 8 children who are struggling to grasp fractions and decimals. He could Bring Back Column Addition and give the 48% of Year 5 children who cannot add two three-digit numbers a fighting chance. He could allow children to learn their times tables without requiring them to use “number properties” to work them out. Perhaps then, more than 8% of Year 5 children would be able to multiply two two-digit numbers.
Since the Union Jack remains embedded in our national flag, let’s look at what Britain has been up to in recent years. They’ve brought back column addition, they’ve introduced testing of times tables, they’ve brought in teaching expertise from Shanghai, they’ve created a Mathematics Mastery curriculum inspired by Singaporean methods. You may not agree with everything they’re doing, but at least they’re doing something.
Our mother country has recognised the widespread impact of adult innumeracy in the UK. If John Key’s government fixed our primary school maths curriculum, how much would that be worth to New Zealand’s future economy? Billions. Think about it, John.
Dr Audrey Tan, Mathmo Consulting