A victory for maths teachers and young mathematicians

The Quirky Teacher

The title makes it sounds like there has been some kind of battle for children’s education, specifically, the right of all children to receive a knowledge-rich education – amidst the melee of anti-knowledge and anti-testing comments that have spewed forth after the DfE announced a new times tables check in year 4, we should be buoyed by this latest announcement because, despite what all those influential consultants, advisers, union chiefs, celebrities and MPs have been writing and saying, it is clear that the DfE has taken the better approach by looking carefully at the research and taking into account the voice of actual teachers, rather than those who make a living out of perpetuating the status quo.

When I got wind of this new check, I smiled to myself – I remember writing about this a while ago, calling for an online check at around year 4 . I…

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The Case Against Education – David Didau: The Learning Spy

I’ve been reading economist Bryan Caplan’s new book, The Case Against Education with great interest. His is very much a contrarian point of view: that most of the time and effort spent on…

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Back to the 1960s and 1970s with ASCL


Recently I spotted a year 11 pupil (I dislike the word student unless used for 6th form or university) with a copy of “Anna Karenina” in her bag. Having studied some Russian, I asked her if she was enjoying it. She was. The book wasn’t on an exam syllabus and the pupil concerned had no Russian background or indeed any connection to Russia at all. She had just heard about the story.

A year 8 pupil I know is able to recite all the English monarchs from William the Conqueror. Just the sort of stuff which would get certain educationalists throwing up their hands in horror about mindless rote learning, facts without understanding etc. Yet this pupil was happy that they got far more out of a visit to the Tower of London as a result.

A year 9 pupil had a copy of a Roald Dahl book in German…

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The Quirky Teacher

There have been a few news items that seem to have nothing in common, but I’m wondering if they all part of a bigger picture that we are either not seeing, or choosing not to see. Those items are:

  1. Damian Hinds announcing a crackdown on a sudden increase in exclusions
  2. A general view that teaching assistants have minimal impact on children’s academic attainment
  3. Pupil premium funding has not ‘closed the gap’ completely (can’t find a link right now)
  4. 1 in 6 staff in reception year are unpaid volunteers 

I can’t find a more diplomatic way to say this (Shakespeare I ain’t), but I think the above describes ‘systems’ that mask the effects of a steady decline in basic parenting. Sorry to drop that bombshell on you all. I think that if we strip these systems away, our hopes of providing a knowledge-rich curriculum for KS2 and KS3 would be hampered…

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Telling Stories about Words – The Confident Teacher

“Stories are psychologically privileged in the human mind.” Daniel Willingham The mind thinks and remembers in stories. It is part of the architecture of human memory and our human…

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People are saying daft things about times tables

Filling the pail

Nick Gibb, the U.K. schools’ minister, has announced that a times tables check will be trialed in 290 primary schools before being rolled out across the whole of England.

There is a logic to assessing the automatic recall of multiplication tables. We know, for instance, that working memory is limited. If students can automatically recall number facts such as times tables then they won’t have to devote working memory resources to figuring these out and will therefore be able to attend to other aspects of a mathematics problem. This will be particularly useful for the most disadvantaged students.

Nevertheless, there are some good reasons to be skeptical of the need for such a check. One of these is that teachers may already be teaching and assessing times tables and so an additional check is bureaucratic and unnecessary. Another justifiable concern is that it might end up distorting the curriculum, with…

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Explicit Vocabulary Teaching 2: What and How?


In my last post I tried to give an overview of the importance of teaching formal, academic vocabulary as well as how we approach it by mostly focussing on Tier 2 words (those that occur across a range of domains, are characteristic of written texts and are used less frequently in spoken communication).

There are two main ways that we list and explain vocabulary. Firstly, all of our units contain challenging non-fiction articles that support the main text we are teaching. Before reading Reading Reconsidered by Doug Lemov, the idea of reading widely around the literature texts that we teach was not really something that I had given thought to. I used to dismiss texts and articles, erroneously believing that they belonged to a separate academic domain. I would never have read a historical non-fiction article on The Great Depression when teaching Of Mice and Men, foolishly believing that to do so would be…

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