Maths more important than IT / Computers

Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD

“Making sure all children have a good grasp of …maths is a more effective way to close the gap than “access to hi-tech devices”” (OECD)

  • 5 hours ago

bbc news oecd doubts about positive impact of technology on school learning

The OECD study has raised ”doubts” about the positive impact of technology on school learning

Investing heavily in school computers and classroom technology does not improve pupils’ performance, says a global study from the OECD.

The think tank says frequent use of computers in schools is more likely to be associated with lower results.

The OECD’s education director Andreas Schleicher says school technology had raised “too many false hopes”.

Tom Bennett, the government’s expert on pupil behaviour, said teachers had been “dazzled” by school computers.

The report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development examines the impact of school technology on international test results, such as the Pisa tests taken in more than 70 countries and tests measuring digital skills.

It says education systems which have invested heavily in information and communications technology have seen “no noticeable improvement” in Pisa test results for reading, mathematics or science.


“If you look at the best-performing education systems, such as those in East Asia, they’ve been very cautious about using technology in their classrooms,” said Mr Schleicher.

“Those students who use tablets and computers very often tend to do worse than those who use them moderately.”

Computer use graph

Annual global spending on educational technology in schools has been valued at £17.5bn, by technology analysts Gartner. In the UK, the spending on technology in schools is £900m.

The British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) says schools have £619m in budgets for ICT, with £95m spent on software and digital content.

But Mr Schleicher says the “impact on student performance is mixed at best”.

The report says:

  • Students who use computers very frequently at school get worse results
  • Students who use computers moderately at school, such as once or twice a week, have “somewhat better learning outcomes” than students who use computers rarely
  • The results show “no appreciable improvements” in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in information technology
  • High achieving school systems such as South Korea and Shanghai in China have lower levels of computer use in school
  • Singapore, with only a moderate use of technology in school, is top for digital skills

“One of the most disappointing findings of the report is that the socio-economic divide between students is not narrowed by technology, perhaps even amplified,” said Mr Schleicher.

Andreas Schleicher
Image captionAndreas Schleicher has warned about students copying their homework from the internet

He said making sure all children have a good grasp of reading and maths is a more effective way to close the gap than “access to hi-tech devices”

He warned classroom technology can be a distraction and result in pupils cutting and pasting “prefabricated” homework answers from the internet.

The study shows “there is no single country in which the internet is used frequently at school by a majority of students and where students’ performance improved”.

Among the seven countries with the highest level of internet use in school, it found three experienced “significant declines” in reading performance – Australia, New Zealand and Sweden – and three more had results that had “stagnated” – Spain, Norway and Denmark.

The countries and cities with the lowest use of the internet in school – South Korea, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Japan – are among the top performers in international tests.

The study did not gather a figure for the UK’s internet time in class, but the UK has among the highest levels of computers per pupil.

Computers per students

But Mr Schleicher says the findings of the report should not be used as an “excuse” not to use technology, but as a spur to finding a more effective approach.

He gave the example of digital textbooks which can be updated as an example of how online technology could be better than traditional methods.

Mark Chambers, chief executive of Naace, the body supporting the use of computers in schools, said it was unrealistic to think schools should reduce their use of technology.

“It is endemic in society now, at home young people will be using technology, there’s no way that we should take technology out of schools, schools should be leading not following.”

John Morris
Image captionHead teacher John Morris: “When people say too much money is being spent on technology in school, my response is: ‘Nonsense'”

Computers in UK schools

  • 1.3m desktop computers
  • 840,000 laptops
  • 730,000 tablets (expected to rise to 939,000 next year)
  • 22% are “ineffective”

Source: BESA

Microsoft spokesman Hugh Milward said: “The internet gives any student access to the sum of human knowledge, 3D printing brings advanced manufacturing capabilities to your desktop, and the next FTSE 100 business might just as well be built in a bedroom in Coventry as in the City.”

Head teacher John Morris also strongly rejected the idea.

“We’re preparing our children for jobs that don’t yet exist,” said Mr Morris, head of Ardleigh Green junior school in the London Borough of Havering.

“We’re training them to use technology which hasn’t yet been invented. So how can you possibly divorce technology from industry or from teaching and learning?

“When people say too much money is being spent on technology in school, my response is ‘Nonsense’. What we need is more money, more investment.”

The government’s behaviour expert Tom Bennett said there might have been unrealistic expectations, but the “adoption of technology in the classroom can’t be turned back”.

England’s schools minister Nick Gibb said: “We want all schools to consider the needs of their pupils to determine how technology can complement the foundations of good teaching and a rigorous curriculum, so that every pupil is able to achieve their potential.”


Read full article here


Innumeracy “National Scandal”

The Department for Education said it was a “national scandal” that almost half the adult population have poor numeracy skills


As a report finds that millions of adults have numeracy skills expected of an 11 year old, UK companies, fearful their workers will not spot “rogue figures”, are training employees in basic maths.

UK comapnies are having to train employees in basic maths as a report finds that millions of adults have the maths' skills of an 11 year old. Getty

The National Numeracy charity says that adults are struggling to calculate change and understand their payslips. It calls for the UK to change its attitude to maths so that being bad at maths should no longer be seen as a “badge of honour”.

‘Blights individual’s chances’

Young people with poor numeracy are twice as likely to be excluded from school, we know adults with poor numeracy are twice as likely to be unemployed, said Chris Humphries, chairman of National Numeracy. Poor numeracy “seriously blights” individual’s life chances, he added.

Figures from a Government survey published last year show that 17 million adults in England have basic maths skills that are, at best, the same as an 11-year-olds.

How good is your maths? You can test your maths here by doing the question below, which is the ‘adult numeracy level 1’ for maths, which is similar to GCSE level.

For more tests you can click on this link to one of the exam boards.

The repair bay is 11.8 metres long and 6.2 metres wide. The owner calculates the area as 73.2 square metres. Which calculation gives the closest estimate of the area of the repair bay?
A 11 x 6
B 11 x 7
C 12 x 6
D 12 x 7

To try more questions click on this link.

Politicians, schools and business leaders have talked about improving people’s maths for decades, but more attention has been paid to improving literacy rates, according to Mike Ellicock, chief executive of National Numeracy. “The perennial problem is that people talk about numeracy and literacy but the focus is on literacy skills because they’re easier to do,” he said.

A YouGov poll of 2,068 adults, commissioned by National Numeracy, reveals that while four in five would feel embarrassed to tell someone they were bad at reading and writing, only 56 per cent would feel embarrassed about admitting their poor maths skills.

The number of UK adults with poor maths skills is a growing problem for employers, who need to train some employees in mental aritmethic, such as working out percentage changes and fractions.

Remedial Maths

James Fothergill, head of education and skills at employers’ group the CBI, told Channel Four Newsthat when it questioned its business members last year around one in five said that they had to teach school leavers remedial maths. “It’s really important that [employees] are helped to apply maths skills and concepts in practical situations, such as being able to work out what a 30 per cent discount is without doing it on the till,” Fothergill said.

Two thirds of businesses surveyed by the CBI said they were concerned about employees’ ability to spot “rogue figures”. The poor numeracy could have serious consequences for businesses because it may potentially increase the risk of errors in accounts or fraud going undetected. The CBI thinks that pupils who don’t get at least a grade C at GCSE should be required to carry on studying maths until they do so.

Graeme Hughes, group director at human resources and corproate affairs at Nationwide Building Society, said that the number of job candidates it interviewed who couldn’t do basic maths had increased slightly in the past few years.

Nationwide works with schools to teach numeracy and help children learn how to manage their money – such as how to avoid getting into debt or to understand different types of interest rate.

‘National Scandal’

Being able to do mental arithmetic isn’t always essential in the workplace, however. One big recuitment company told Channel Four News that employers often value computer skills in employees more than mental arithmetic.

“As there is increasing reliance in many sectors on computers and automated systems, we find that many employers are more concerned that candidates have strong numeracy skills linked to computer packages such as Microsoft Excel, rather than mental arithmetic skills,” said Simon Baddeley, senior regional director at Reed Specialist Recruitment. “We test candidates to see if they possess these skills as it is important for many roles that they have a good understanding of computer databases, can create formulas, possess the basic maths to create and manage databases, and – crucially – spot any errors in automated systems.

John Lewis said that it helps employees improve their maths skills by providing free web-based learning, or paying for half of tution costs at local colleges.

Despite the concerns over the numeracy of millions of adults, more people are studying maths at UK universities. The number of people accepted to study mathematical and computer sciences at UK universities has increased steadily over the past five years – from 24,722 in 2006 to 33,407 in 2011, according to figures from Ucas.

The Department for Education said it was a “national scandal” that almost half the adult population have poor numeracy skills. It said it wanted the vast majority of young people to continue to study maths up to 18 within a decade to meet the growing demand for employees with high-level and intermediate maths skills.

“We are undertaking a root and branch review of how maths is taught in schools, attracting the best maths graduates into the profession, strengthening training through our network of specialist teaching schools and we are overhauling GCSEs and A-levels to make sure they are robust and in line with the best education systems in the world,” the DfE said in a statement.

(Article source: Channel 4)

Read full article here

“Nation of maths dunces”

Nation of maths dunces: 17 million adults would fail tests set for primary schoolchildren

Seventeen million adults – nearly half the working population – have the maths skills of a child at primary school, a report revealed yesterday.

Their grasp of numbers is so poor that they struggle to work out deductions on their pay slips or calculate change.

The number who struggle with basic numeracy has grown by two million over the past decade, even though billions of pounds has been poured into schemes to improve standards.


How would you score in the numeracy test?

How would you score in the numeracy test?

The scale of poor numeracy far exceeds the equivalent figure for poor literacy, which is now five million.

The report, released by a new charity, National Numeracy, found that 49 per cent of working-age adults in England are so bad at maths that they have no more than the skills expected of a nine to 11-year-old and would struggle with graphs and charts.

About half of these adults – a quarter of the working population – have only the abilities expected of a seven to nine-year-old and might struggle to pay household bills.

Launching the report, National Numeracy said school-leavers who have failed to master basic maths are more likely to end up jobless, in prison or pregnant at a young age.

The charity said Britain’s low numeracy levels, which place us 17th in a global league of 30 nations, are partly due to decades of neglect of maths in schools. But it also blamed a prevalent attitude that it is a ‘badge of honour’ to be bad at the subject and to have a ‘can’t do it’ attitude.

Support: Countdown mathematician Rachel Riley is fronting a campaign for adults to brush up on their maths skills

Support: Countdown mathematician Rachel Riley is fronting a campaign for adults to brush up on their maths skills

Chris Humphries, chairman of National Numeracy and former chief executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), said:

‘Official Government figures quote that 17million people have maths capabilities, at best, of the age of an 11-year-old.

‘And actually half of that group’s capacity tends to operate down around the level of a nine-year-old.

‘That’s a scary figure, because it means that they often can’t understand deductions on their payslip.

‘They have problems with timetables, they are certainly going to have problems with tax and even with interpreting graphs and charts that are necessary for their jobs.

‘The truth is that numeracy has been hidden behind literacy.

‘We’ve made excellent progress in literacy. The investment in basic skills has demonstrated that good quality programmes, good quality teachers, proper PR and publicity and a real attention to drawing adults in can make a big improvement.’

Mr Humphries lamented that maths had been ‘downgraded’ in the UK, particularly from the 1970s onwards.

‘The history of attitudes and concerns about mathematics in the UK, and particularly in England, dates back 40 years,’ he said. ‘We’re quite realistic, we don’t expect to transform this particular issue overnight.’

He said there was no ‘straight answer’ to the question of why Britain had a poor attitude to maths, but included a ‘stronger focus that we have had in this country since the [Second World] War on the arts and humanities and social science’.

Mike Ellicock, chief executive of National Numeracy, said: ‘We want to challenge this “I can’t do maths” attitude that is prevalent in the UK.

‘It’s often a boast or a badge of honour, and that’s across the whole of the social spectrum.

‘A huge part of the message is breaking down this view that’s held in this country that maths is a “can do, can’t do” thing, that it’s genetic, “I can’t do it, my mum couldn’t do it” and that kind of thing.

‘There’s absolutely no evidence for that.’

A poll for the group found that 80 per cent of adults questioned would be embarrassed to say they could not read or write properly, yet only 56 per cent would be ashamed of admitting they were bad at maths.

It has been found that many adults lack the maths skills expected of a nine-year-old

It has been found that many adults lack the maths skills expected of a nine-year-old (Posed by model)

The new organisation, whose founding sponsors alongside Nationwide Building Society include the Rayne Foundation, Oxford University Press and John Lyon’s Charity, is the first dedicated solely to boosting numeracy skills. It is backed by Rachel Riley, the mathematician on Channel Four’s Countdown.

Endorsing the charity’s aims, BT chairman Sir Mike Rake said: ‘Poor numeracy is the hidden problem that blights the UK economy and ruins individuals’ chances in life.

‘It’s so often overshadowed by concerns about literacy, and yet there is evidence to suggest that numeracy may be an even clearer indicator of economic and personal success.’

(Article source: Daily Mail)

Read full article here