Maths Counts, says Education Minister
Published 6th February 2013, 9:53am
Improving teaching and learning in mathematics is a priority for the Cayman Islands’ government primary schools for this academic year. A range of exciting new training programmes and other initiatives are underway, under the leadership of the Ministry’s Numeracy specialist, Mr. Frank Eade, which are highlighting the importance of mathematics skills amongst teachers, parents and students alike, changing attitudes and building confidence and skills in maths.
Education Minister, the Hon. Rolston Anglin, JP explained that tackling underperformance in mathematics is a priority area for the government education system: “A lot of emphasis has been placed on the need to improve literacy skills over the past years, but our students’ performance in mathematics/numeracy is no less important. We know mathematical principles and concepts have become a part of almost every area of work and that knowing these principles will help our students succeed in both school and work. Yet, historically, this has been an area where too few of our students excel. Our employers tell us this is an area of weakness with applicants for jobs”.
“While the numbers of Year 12 students graduating with 5 or more high-level passes has grown significantly, and we continue to celebrate this success, the same cannot be said of the numbers achieving a high level pass in maths. Since 2006, the percentage of students gaining an A-C grade or Grade I-III in CXC has ranged between 25-29%. This just is not good enough. We need to do better and I believe our students can do better. As a country and an education system, we must embrace the notion that “Maths counts”, and continue to push for improvements,” Minister Anglin explained.
Students’ literacy and numeracy skills are identified as priority areas for improvement in both the Education Stabilization Plan (ESP) of January 2011 and the new National Strategic Plan for Education 2012-2017.
One key development coming out of the ESP was the appointment of Mr. Frank Eade in September 2011, a Numeracy Specialist with over 30 years experience, to work with teachers and students across the government education system. According to Chief Officer, Mrs. Mary Rodrigues, Mr. Eade’s support has been welcomed with enthusiasm by principals and teachers, and the way our students’ experience maths in our classrooms is changing as a result”.
In his role, Mr. Eade has been extremely busy working with teachers to support them in developing their interactive teaching skills in mathematics through a Leaders in Primary Maths Project (LPMP). †Not only are the teachers developing their own skills but they have also been supporting other teachers to help them refine their skills, and develop new approaches for teaching mathematics.
Even though maths in primary schools is a priority this year, many important developments in math are also happening at the high school level, where the Ministry wants high school graduates to have the mathematical and problem-solving skills that will be relevant to employment and/or continuous education in their future. At the secondary level, units of study are also being developed to encourage students to discuss real life scenarios, which will enable them to make sense of mathematics in which they are studying.
To date, approximately 20 primary and secondary teachers have been trained as Mathematics Recovery teachers, which have enabled them to support students who are struggling with mathematics. Mathematics Recovery allows teachers to diagnose children’s difficulties and to provide intense individual support. The training also enables the teachers to work with whole classes in order to reduce the amount of students who fall behind in their mathematics. The Ministry of Education is grateful to the Cayman Islands Society of Professional
Along with this, Mr. Eade has developed a bank of videos of mathematics lessons of teachers in the Cayman Islands which will be placed on a website and can be used as examples to support other teachers to develop effective mathematics teaching skills. He has also developed a series of activities/problems/puzzles based on scenes or scenarios in the Cayman Islands, so making maths “real” for students. Furthermore he has been contributing to parents’ evenings in order to support parents in understanding the mathematics that their children are participating in and learning, to enable the parents to help their children with their work.
For the future, Mr. Eade explained some of the plans for the government system. He stated, “I will continue to support teachers in as many ways as possible, and will also work with year 3, 4, 5 and 6 teachers to develop units of study which would encourage a problem-solving approach to teaching and improve outcomes for students.”
He continued, “Teachers in the Government system are really starting to help children to love mathematics. Mathematics doesn’t just happen in the classroom, it is all around us. I want to see lots of discussion between teachers and students, practical activities, drawings and children using images to get the full experience of mathematics and to truly enjoy it.”
These are early days in Mr. Eade’s work, and the results of the work being undertaken will take time to have an impact. However, Chief Education Officer, Mrs. Shirley Wahler, noted that there have been marked improvements in student performance in mathematics at Key Stage 2 (Year 6 or end of Primary) between 2011 and 2012.
“The percentage of students getting a Level 4 or higher in maths in the Key Stage 2 Standard Assessment Tests (SATS) has risen from 25% in 2011 to 42% in 2012. This is a huge achievement and I thank all those who have also been a part of this process and helped our students improve,” she said.