Posts filed under ‘Research’

SATS make you stupid!

Here’s another interesting angle on the debate about SATS. According to an article in the Economist I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told research at Pennsylvania University and Cornell University has shown that children of poor families learn less well than children of middle class families because their working memories, critical in learning, have smaller capacities.

This is not put down to poverty per se, but to stress, presumably induced by being poor. I know some high achieving children who come from poor families. I also know some children of well off families who undoubtedly undergo a great deal of stress, nor because they are poor but for a whole variety of other reasons.

So if stress is the issue as is suggested then one would imagine that this would permeate the whole spectrum of wealth.

And if stress is the issue this would be a very strong argument for ridding our kids of the stress of sitting SATS tests, which, if the research is correct, can only get in the way of their learning.

April 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

If it can be fun for some, why not for all?

As I look around different educational initiatives that are aimed at helping our young people learn I am struck by the fact that some of the most interesting initiatives are aimed at ‘disaffected’ students who for one reason or another are not doing well.

An example is Winchmore School who are piloting a scheme called ‘Study Plus Maths’ aimed very specifically at disaffected students who are not doing well in the subject (

The scheme involves what they describe as studying maths through context. This might mean working out the figures involved in discounting the price, say, of an MP3 player. Or simply integrating maths activities into other subject lessons.

It also involves a degree of ‘personalisation’ in that the teacher will gather information about an individual pupil’s interests and hobbies and aim maths activities at that.

So this is setting maths into a real life context and in my view is a good and positive thing.

However, looking into this more deeply I find some rather more disturbing aspects of this.

There seems to be a feeling amongst pupils who are taking this that learning maths in this way is more fun and more interesting than the normal maths classes. So I would ask the question if that is the case why is this more enlightened way of teaching not available to everybody learning maths. Why make this false distinction between normal and disaffected pupils.

In a sense it is a way of rewarding those who for whatever reasons haven’t found the normal lessons particularly compelling. Their reward is to get interesting Maths lessons. Why is that not available to all pupils?

More disturbing is the headteachers comment that if pupils do get grade C in Maths then the options for the future are very limited. I find this astounding.

How good was David Beckham at Maths, I wonder, or Paul McCartney?

Incidentally, mathematics professor Jason Brown claims to have solved the mystery of what chord is used at the start of ‘It’s a Hard Days Night’ by using a mathematical calculation called Fourier Transform. There is also evidence that children that listen to music do better at math, because math and music both use the brain in similar ways.

In furtherance of the headteachers false statement suggesting ‘no maths, no future’, some of the pupils have foregone other subject options in order to undertake this ‘StudyPlus Maths’ scheme. In the words of one parent, ‘Better to give up an option in order to ensure she (her daughter) did well in a core subject than use another option that wouldn’t benefit her really’. And in the words of another parent his son was ‘disappointed to give up geography which he was interested in’.

Even as I write this I can feel my hackles rising.

March 23, 2009 at 11:57 am 1 comment


I just read this in last weeks TES:

Most teachers think smaller class sizes would help to improve learning according to a new poll’

You don’t say!!

January 26, 2009 at 3:04 pm Leave a comment

Mick Landmann on education, digital technology, and the 21st century

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