A Critical Analysis of the National Numeracy Strategy

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A Critical Analysis of the National Numeracy Strategy.

The National Numeracy Strategy was implemented in September 1999, setting a target for 75% of all pupils reaching at least level four in mathematics by 2002. This essay will focus on the findings since the implementation of the strategy for both pupils and teachers. In order to do this I will examine the Numeracy Strategy Framework guidelines, which state how the teaching of mathematics should be carried out in primary education and evaluate some of the main criticisms since the implementation.

Since the implementation of the Numeracy Strategy, a maths lesson should occur on a daily basis in every class from reception to year six. According to the Framework of the Strategy, each lesson should last for about forty minutes in Key Stage 1 and fifty to sixty minutes in Key Stage 2. The lesson should consist of as much time as possible in direct teaching and questioning of the whole class. The focus for teaching should be high-quality direct teaching, rather than drill and practice lecturing, asking children questions and encouraging them to share their answers and methods with the whole class. Greater emphasis is placed on effective teaching by the teacher, rather than children learning by themselves from exercise books.

The Framework states that a typical lesson will consist of oral work and mental calculation with the whole class for the first five to ten minutes of the lesson. This is seen as a warm up to motivate the children to practice and sharpen mental and oral skills, in preparation for the main teaching activity. It is suggested that the teacher should maintain a brisk pace, providing varied oral and mental activities throughout each week. Teachers should ensure that each child can see the teacher easily and interruptions should be avoided, encouraging all pupils to participate in the discussion. Teachers should avoid running over time, in order to move on to the next stage of the lesson.

The next stage will last between thirty and forty minutes, where the exercise will include teaching input and pupil activities either as a whole class, in groups, pairs or individuals. The teacher should make clear to the class what they will learn, tell them what they are expected to do, how long it should take and what they need to prepare for the plenary session, which is the last stage of the lesson. Groups sizes should be manageable consisting of around four pupils. The teacher should work intensively with one or two groups, rather than trying to spend time with all the children, making use of classroom assistants and adult helpers to assist with the rest of the class. When working with individuals or pairs, teachers need to ensure that the rest of the class is working on related tasks and exercises.

The last stage of the lesson consists of a plenary session, which lasts between ten to fifteen minutes and brings the whole class together in order to summarise what they have learnt. This stage of the lesson should be a time to sort out any problems that children may have had, make links with other work and to set homework.

Some plenary sessions may last longer than others depending on the outcomes for e.g. more time may be needed for explanation and discussion to identify errors and misunderstandings. It is important to iron out any problems at this stage before moving onto another task.

Although this is just a brief description of a typical lesson from the Framework guidelines of the Numeracy Strategy, it is clear that the importance of mathematics is stressed over and over again. This is evident where the Framework continually stresses the importance of linking mathematics wherever possible. The Framework suggests that children should identify between mathematics and other subject areas for e.g. in geography map reading will require calculations of measures and angles etc. Teachers are encouraged to bring to the attention of their...
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