Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Thoughts on maths education

Today sees the publication of the latest Pisa report about maths, science and reading education in OECD countries. Now, I'm not an educationalist, so I'm not going to pontificate about teaching methods or best practice - there but there are two main points that won't be made in the debate over this report that won't be that I think are worth mentioning.

The first is that the Education Secretary, who is still Michael Gove for some reason, is likely to say that these results are likely to be a reflection on the previous government's education policies. He'll say that his ideas will only be judged after a decade or so of operation. Now therein lies the problem.
Even if you are one of the few that think Gove's policies are good for the youth of today, they won't get a decade. No system ever has - at least not in my lifetime. No single cohort goes through their whole school life under a single system, so no judgement can ever be made on anyone's education policies.
Over the last 30 years, we've only had two changes of government, so it's not even that under an 18-year Conservative regime we had a single system, nor in the 13 Labour years that followed. Each minister with the education brief changes things and the member responsible changes every couple of years or so. No system is ever given a chance to work so no single set of exam results can ever be taken to justify or blame anyone for anything.

The big issue with maths teaching and, more importantly, maths learning in this country is cultural. It remains acceptable to laugh and say "oh I'm terrible with numbers, me" when failing to perform a simple addition or subtraction. This ought to be unacceptable. Innumeracy should be on a par with illiteracy. Instead, it is normal. Stupidity, especially when it comes to numbers, seems almost to be a source of pride. It's not enough to say how terrible you are with numbers and brush it off as just one of those things you can't do, like juggling or snooker. If you want to juggle or play snooker, what do you do? Learn the techniques and practise a lot. So why not maths?
Until the attitude changes - until children aren't brought up by people who revel in their innumeracy - maths results aren't likely to change greatly. Until we, as a society, stop paying too much heed to the chronically stupid - and I'm thinking here of recent snippets of 'I'm slightly famous, pay me to shove a kangaroo's bollock in my gob' I've accidentally seen - then we're always going to be on the back foot.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Top 10: Things badgers can't move

The badger cull is not going well. And you know whose fault that is, right? Yep, badgers. Accused of moving the goalposts after seeking time extensions to kill the minimum required numbers, environment secretary Owen Paterson said "I am not moving anything - the badgers are moving the goalposts.
With that in mind, here are the top ten things badgers can't move:

10. Any mountain

9. It

8. A piano

7. India's intransigent position on using the DRS

6. You to tears

5. Like Margot Fonteyn

4. Like Jagger

3. It's money to an offshore tax haven

2. On from lost love

1. Goalposts

Friday, October 04, 2013

How do you feel?

How do you feel?

It's a simple enough question.

What I want to say is;
I ache.
Not physically, but every time I think, it hurts.
I feel empty.
I've nothing left to give.
My self-confidence is shot to bits.
I constantly question my own abilities in all walks of life.
I haven't slept properly in months, maybe years.
Going outside is scary.
People bother me.
Some days I wake up with a crushing sensation in my chest, pinning me down in bed.
I fly off the handle at the smallest thing, sometimes at nothing.
What I portray as sarcasm is often the bitterness I actually feel within.
I can't concentrate.
Can't focus.
Tasks which used to be simple aren't any more.
I want to kick things
Because anger is all I've got now
And violence is the only way I can think to express it.
My attention span has reduced to...
Nothing makes me happy any more.
Things I used to do for fun bore me, feel like chores.
I've no drive, no enthusiasm, no energy.
I hate getting older.
I hate being me.
I hate everything.
I feel so alone, even in a big group of people,
Even surrounded by people who I know care about me.
I want to run away, hide and cry.
And I know it's irrational - that's the most frustrating thing.
I know it becomes self-fulfilling,
That believing it will get worse will ensure that it does.
And I can't stop it,
Can't just switch it off and back on again.

But that's a bit much, so instead I reply;
I'm OK - just a bit tired.