BBC Education News is reporting on the introduction of the “Asian Maths Method” to primary schools.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against new approaches, whether they are from Asia, Mars, or the next classroom along. We should always be open-minded, prepared to experiment and to amend what we do.

But what always bugs me is the sloppy thinking. The article talks about functional innumeracy being much lower in Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong than in the UK.

Yes, that is interesting and perhaps raises some questions. But why assume it is automatically because of the use of a specific method? Couldn’t other factors be more important? For example, cultural factors such as how education is viewed, how frowned on innumeracy is, and how much support and reinforcement is offered at home can be hugely important to success. And even restricting it to educational methods – would you expect levels of functional innumeracy at 15 to be solely explicable from methods used in primary school?

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