AbstractThis study investigates the mathematical achievement of eleven year-old pupils in Wales and the effects the introduction of the National Curriculum may have had on mathematical performance at this age.
The study aims to establish whether mathematical competency is in decline, which specific areas of mathematics pose the greatest difficulty for pupils, and whether differences in achievement exist between genders at this age. The study also aims to clarify the effects the introduction of the National Curriculum may have had upon mathematical achievement and teaching and learning mathematics generally.
To achieve these aims the study contains two elements, a local study and a national study, in addition to an extensive literature review.
The local study is based upon analysis of children's performance and achievement in mathematics on a test instrument within a junior school in South Wales. Data is drawn from a sample of 766 pupils over the twelve year period 1983 to 1994 and is analysed using a variety of statistical techniques. It is concluded that:
• There is a good standard of achievement throughout the twelve year period, with 71.1% of boys and 69.9% of girls achieving half marks or more in the test. The overall trend is upward, refuting the notion that mathematical competency is in decline.
• There is a noticeable improvement in achievement in the years 1992 to 1994, possibly as a result of the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988.
• Pupils are most successful in the area of computational skills, whilst the application of concepts and skills of mathematics proves the most difficult area.
The three years 1987, 1992 and 1994 show significant differences in achievement between genders, with boys outperforming the girls. In the remaining nine year achievement between genders is comparable.
The national survey focuses specifically upon the perceptions of head teachers, deputy head teachers and teachers in relation to the introduction of the National Curriculum and its effect upon the teaching and learning of mathematics at Key Stage 2. A 5% stratified sample of primary schools in Wales were surveyed using a dedicated questionnaire designed by the researcher, a sample of 84 schools from 21 of the 22 Educational Authorities in Wales, where 420 questionnaires were distributed. Detailed analysis of the questionnaire responses reveal that the National Curriculum
• provided benefits in terms of the knowledge gained by pupils;
• not enhanced schools overall ethos in relation to developing the affective domain of their pupils;
• created a significant improvement in staff attitudes with respect to staff morale within the teaching profession;
• created a positive climate in which staff may call upon colleagues' expertise and experience in the form of support mechanisms for delivering the curriculum;
• provided clarity in terms of the objectives and outcomes schools are able to set for their mathematics teaching;
• provided a viable curriculum in relation to the content of the mathematics syllabus;
• provided a catalyst for the development and refinement of curriculum methodology;
• not provided benefits in terms of improved relationships between the school and the wider external community;
• initiated development and improvements in relation to mathematical textbooks available for delivering the subject;
• provided clarity in relation to the adoption of specific subject teaching methodologies within schools;
• improved the chances of raising standards in primary education.
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