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Despite there being no scientific research to support the idea of a ‘maths person’, more than three quarters of children at secondary school believe that some people are naturally able to do maths better than others. 

In response to National Numeracy Day (May 16th) the teaching and learning platform Learning by Questions * ran a survey with pupils across the UK to see if they could identify the point at which children picked up the cultural myth that there are ‘numbers people’. 

“At primary level children are 50/50 about the existence of a ‘maths person’ but by secondary the majority believe that some people are biologically predetermined to be better with figures” explains Dave Grosvenor, Education Programme Manager for Learning by Questions.

“What’s more worrying is that most of those children believe that they are not ‘maths people’ which is a tragedy and it’s robbing us of future mathematicians, engineers, scientists, or simply adults who can navigate numbers with confidence.”

Andy Done, Deputy Headteacher at Masefield Primary School in Bolton and finalist for the TES Maths Teacher of the Year says that schools are aware of the problem: “It’s something we hear a lot of, particularly on parents evening.  But a child’s potential in maths is not dictated by the numeracy skills of their family.  Every individual is capable of being good with numbers.” 

What’s reassuring from the research is that 82% of secondary pupils say that the self-paced learning with immediate feedback used in ‘Learning by Questions’ could help change their mind. 

Dave Grosvenor explains “Learning by Questions is a new evolution in teaching and learning.  The fact that 90% of teachers who have been trialling the pedagogy for the last year believe that their students have made greater progress than they would have otherwise gives us a great deal of hope that we won’t need National Numeracy Day in the future.”

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