Cockcroft Report: Mathematics counts

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This resource from HMSO is the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Teaching of Mathematics in Schools under the Chairmanship of Dr W. H. Cockcroft.

The foreword states "Few subjects in the school curriculum are as important to the future of the nation as mathematics; and few have been the subject of more comment and criticism in recent years. This report tackles that criticism head on. It offers constructive and original proposals for change. It should be read by those responsible for school mathematics at all levels."

The report identified that the mathematics teacher has the task

• of enabling each student to develop, within his capabilities, the mathematical skills and understanding required for adult life, for employment and for further study and training, while remaining aware of the difficulties which some students will experience in trying to gain such an appropriate understanding

• of providing each student with such mathematics as may be needed for his study of other subjects

• of helping each student to develop so far as is possible his appreciation and enjoyment of mathematics itself and his realisation of the role which it has played and will continue to play both in the development of science and technology and of our civilisation

• above all, of making each student aware that mathematics provides him with a powerful means of communication

Mathematical needs of adult life were identified as: the ability to read numbers and to count, to tell the time, to pay for purchases and to give change, to weigh and measure, to understand straightforward timetables and simple graphs and charts, as well as perform sensible estimation and approximations.

Most important of all is the need to have sufficient confidence to make effective use of whatever mathematical skill and understanding is possessed, whether this be little or much.

Testing, whether written, oral or practical, should never be an end in itself but should be a means of providing information which can form the basis of future action.

This comprehensive and influential report published in 1982 was well known for its paragraph 243 that stated:

Mathematics teaching at all levels should include opportunities for;

*exposition by the teacher

*discussion between teacher and students and between students themselves

*appropriate practical work

*consolidation and practice of fundamental skills and routines

*problem solving, including the application of mathematics to everyday situations

*investigational work.

The facilities for teaching mathematics were also considered and recommendations made that, in secondary schools, mathematics should be taught in suitably equipped specialist rooms as their provision makes it easier for good practice to develop.

The report concluded that the most important resource for good mathematics teaching is an adequate supply of competent mathematics teachers.

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