Tuesday 10 July 2018


At The Institute, I have to cover more than 500 contact hours (actually on my feet talking at / with students) a year and about 25% = a quarter = 125 of them are basic maths and statistics. It would be fair to call some of these courses Remedial Maths, because the average [High-school] Leaving Certificate grade among our incoming students is a bare scrape at Pass Maths. After 12 years in school, too many of our students haven't the least feeling for numbers and even if they can get the 'correct' answer it is only by robotically following a learned protocol. I know that, for many of them, in a turmoil of math-anxiety, they aren't confident that they have the right answer even when they do; and they are not about to check whether their answer is sensible. In real life, getting an answer in the right ball-park is better than having all the digits correct but the units wrong or the decimal point away with the fairies.
I've had mad answers to simple everyday problems:
And not even my best students get 100% on either the pre-quiz or on the various exams tests [if I call them exams or tests half the kids have an anxiety attack] quizzes which I set through the year. It was of interest, therefore to catch an article on the BBC about everyday innumeracy which claimed a) that basic number-skills are rarer than they used to be and b) the deficiency makes a difference in Joe & Mary Public's ability to manage their money, spot a bargain, check a restaurant bill or make change at the till. There is a link to an interesting self-assess quiz which tests your skills:
  • Numbers
  • Operations and calculations
  • Handling information
  • Shape, space and measurement
  • Being numerate
    Before you start, clear the decks, it will take you about 40 minutes. You need to have a snack before you start and a cup of tea at the ready . . . and a calculator unless you are a purist or have a 19thC ability with mental arithmetic. And no I didn't get 100%.

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