Friday, 1 March 2013

Hexham Middle School Maths students are changing policy

Today I met 3 of the most remarkable pupils I have ever met. Elizabeth, Amy and Anisha are all at Hexham Middle School. They are all Key Stage 3. We have been in correspondence since last September - they are amongst the youngest of my regular letter writers in my post bag.
They all wrote to me complaining about chunking as a method of calculating division - they all wanted a return to long division, which they found quicker, better, and a greater test for the skill of the student. I forwarded their concerns to Michael Gove and Liz Truss, the education Ministers in Westminster. I am pleased to say that the government announced in January that in future the method of calculating division  was changing - with a return to long division - as Elizabeth, Amy and Anisha had wanted. I know that their letters really impressed Liz Truss, the Minister who is in charge of Maths. Interestingly Liz has two young children herself. Liz and I have discussed the input of these three impressive young ladies and today I saw for myself how bright, personable and motivated they were. They were my guides and questioners today as I dropped in to the school and met Mrs Parker, their inspirational teacher.
Hexham Middle School likes long division - that much was clear when I sat in on Mrs Parker's maths class today. It was a privilege and a pleasure to see well behaved school children, highly motivated to learn, well taught, disciplined and good at maths. One calcuation saw them being asked to divide 697 by 7. The speed and precision of calculation by some of the pupils using long division was remarkable.
They clearly preferred to long division to chunking - I asked specifically - "what do you prefer?"
All agreed they liked long division. One young man put it best when he said: "what idiot invented chunking?" I decided not to discuss educational policy on maths from 10-15 years ago and merely assured them that long division was the future!

We finished by agreeing that the 3 star pupils, and their teacher, should come to Westminster to see the House of Commons. I will try and set up a meeting with Liz Truss or Michael Gove as part of a tour of the Houses of Parliament. There is a bit of logistics / parental permission to be sorted before the visit goes ahead but with a fair wind I see no reason why it could not take place at some stage in April.