This September many primary schools in South Manchester moved to a new, more “challenging” maths curriculum and, now, as the year ends, I see an upsurge in the number of parents looking for private tutoring. This does not surprise me at all. The new curriculum accelerated the teaching of mathematics in primary years to an extent with which neither schools, with their limited resources, nor young children can realistically cope. For example, decimals are now taught to 8 year olds, two years earlier than in the past, and much earlier than in many top performing countries. Many children at this age are still not confident with the concept of a whole number and the new, much harder, concept of decimals makes them totally confused.
To be successful, maths lessons in the early years should not be “hard” but age appropriate, systematic, visual, and engaging. Maths should help children to develop confidence, not to destroy it. There is nothing in school mathematics that a child cannot master unless they are thrown into a topic which they are not ready to understand.
There is vast international expertise about how to teach mathematics to young children to achieve the best results. The most effective way to improve the teaching of maths in England is to look at this expertise seriously. At the moment England still appears to be at the beginning of a long and rocky road.