Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME)

ACME launches Raising the bar: developing able young mathematicians

12 December 2012

Young people with the potential to successfully study mathematics at A level and beyond are being let down by a system that rushes them through the learning process and fails to allow them to develop a deep understanding of the subject, according to a new report by the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME).

The new ACME paper, Raising the bar: developing able young mathematicians, identified that the process of accelerating promising pupils through the curriculum was occurring at both primary and secondary school. At primary, schools are assessed on the results of Level 6 tests, which examine pupils on their ability to solve mathematics utilising concepts from the secondary curriculum. At a secondary, league tables encourage schools to enter their pupils to take their mathematics GCSE early ("early entry"), which can lead to shaky foundations and hinder progression to A level.

Chair of ACME, Professor Steve Sparks FRS said: "Just because a pupil can charge through the curriculum at top speed through procedural learning, does not mean that he or she has developed a clear grasp of the subject matter or could apply the fundamental principles more broadly. The 'acceleration' approach is driven by league tables, and puts us at odds with many of the world's highest performers in terms of mathematics education. It is inconsistent with the Government's stated aim to encourage more students to study maths to 19."

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