Does it matter whether primary school teachers have good maths skills?

Filling the pail

Ten years ago a randomised controlled trial(RCT) took place in the U.S. The trial pitted four early years maths programs against each other. Two of these programs, Saxon Math and Math Expressions, used explicit instruction. The other two programs, Investigations in Number Data and Space (commonly known as ‘TERC’ after its developers) and Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics, did not, preferring a ‘constructivist‘ approach. For instance, TERCencourages students to ‘develop their own strategies for solving problems and engage in discussion about their reasoning and ideas’. This stands in contrast to teachers explicitly teaching students how to solve problems.

The RCT found that the explicit programs were more effective than the constructivist ones. This is hardly surprising given the wealth of evidence we have in favour of explicit instruction generally, as well as specificexperiments that have found that explicit maths is superior to constructivist maths.

Eric Taylor, an…

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