NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 16, 2010

A test of simple math skills taken by British teachers from schools across the country has revealed a "shocking" lack of mental arithmetic ability and basic math knowledge, says the Telegraph. 

  • Only four out of 10 teachers could work out that 2.1 percent of 400 is 8.4.
  • Only a third knew that 1.4 divided by 0.1 is 14.
  • And less than 50 per cent could work out that a half divided by a quarter is 2.  

The results from 155 teachers in 18 schools, revealed in Channel 4's Dispatches program, add to growing concerns about numeracy standards and teaching in England, says the Telegraph: 

  • Almost a quarter of children are leaving primary school with a poor grasp of math, even though spending on the subject is about £2.5 billion (about U.S.$3.9 billion) a year.
  • Around 135,000 pupils start secondary school unable to cope with their courses. 

Richard Dunne, a math education specialist who created the test, says a generation of teachers did not fully understand the subject. 

Alison Wolf, professor of public sector management at King's College, London, says: "I am actually horrified by the statistics. 

"I really think that our obsession with generic teaching skills has crowded out time in which we could be making sure that people actually have the basic content and knowledge of content that they need. 

"It doesn't mean that anybody who can do math can teach math, that is obviously not true -- but I don't think you can teach math if you can't do it." 

Source: Julie Henry, "Basic sums baffle primary teachers; Primary school teachers have such a poor grasp of basic math that they struggle to solve sums that 11 year olds should be able to answer," London Telegraph, February 13, 2010. 

For text: 


Browse more articles on Education Issues