Society criticises mathematics curriculum proposals

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Curriculum
The Royal Statistical Society has submitted a critical response to the government’s public consultation on reforming the national curriculum in England.
 
The new curriculum will be available in autumn 2013 and will be first taught in schools from September 2014.
 
As well as addressing specific questions raised in the consultation document, the RSS raised a number of broader issues around statistics in schools. In a letter accompanying the consultation response, RSS president John Pullinger stressed the importance of statistical literacy. ‘In a world awash with data, statistical understanding is increasingly important in all areas of society,’ he wrote. ‘The ability to understand numbers, interpret data and communicate evidence is an essential feature of the modern workplace, and crucial to competitiveness in the global market. And in the academic world, almost all subjects are increasingly quantitative.’
 
The consultation response made it clear that the curriculum proposals have insufficient statistical content. It also identified a lack of attention being given to promote students’ acquisition of transferable skills, in order to provide students with the ability to use their knowledge outside the mathematics classroom.
 
It stressed that the current curriculum at secondary level focuses on data presentation ‘to the detriment of statistics as a problem solving cycle’.  There are  ‘weaknesses’ in the way in which statistics is co-ordinated in subjects other than maths, and in the way its practical nature is assessed. ‘It is important that the government is aware, also, that mathematics teachers can themselves lack understanding in how to teach statistics in the manner we describe,’ John Pullinger’s letter states.
 
The RSS commended the current approach being used in New Zealand, which it praised for its integration of mathematics and statistics.
 
Finally, the RSS pointed out the ‘significant opportunities’ of using ICT in the teaching of statistics. ‘The way in which today’s students will use their statistical knowledge and understanding in the workplace and in HE will be closely linked to the way in which technology is opening up the possibility of using new and bigger datasets,’ Pullinger wrote in his letter.
 
The response referenced the RSS report ‘The Future of Statistics in our Schools and Colleges’ (opens as a pdf) as a detailed view of promoting statistical education, and also reiterated the Society’s willingness to be involved in discussions regarding the National Curriculum going forward.
 
The response and accompanying letter are available to download on the RSS website.
 

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