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I’m no good with maths

Maths just isn’t my strong point

I don’t do maths!

How often have you heard statements like this – maybe from your children or members of your own family? Maybe you’ve even said something like this too?

In the UK, it seems almost OK not to be good at maths. Where we would hide in shame (and many people do sadly) if we couldn’t read, many of seem to be fine with having a similar lack of maths skills.

More worryingly, this lack of skills is affecting students’ wellbeing and self-esteem. Every year, over 300,000 young people resit their GCSE maths and, worryingly, some 19 year olds are now on their sixth or seventh maths GCSE resit.

The maths skills crisis is harming people’s job prospects too. If you want a job – almost any job – you need some fluency in maths.

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So, something needs to be done. The Capital City College Group runs three London colleges and, just before Christmas, staff from City and Islington College staff joined their colleagues from CONEL and Westminster Kingsway colleges at a maths conference organised by the Group. Our aims were to highlight the issue and help our staff to raise their game, by learning from each other and sharing the best of what they already do.

At the conference, which we believe was the first of its kind, staff heard from leading maths experts and representatives from Pearson and MEI (the A Level and GCSE maths assessment body). Our aims were to highlight the issue and help our staff to raise their game, by learning from each other and sharing the best of what they already do. The video below explains more of the rationale behind the conference.

Sheila Rai (Head of School for English and Maths at CONEL) said: “At CONEL we offer foundation and higher maths courses. It’s really important for learners who are looking at higher education, university, an apprenticeship or employment to have the right maths skills and a sound qualification.

“The purpose of the conference was to meet colleagues in the other colleges and have those discussions about how we can all work with our learners and stretch and challenge them. So for our resit students, we’re saying that you can try the higher qualifications, not just foundation course.”

Delegates were exposed to a smorgasbord of ideas to help them enhance their practice and help students boost their skills, self-esteem, and their grades. They got advice and guidance on the new Functional Skills reforms and learned strategies to help students break out of their negative thinking around maths and gain the skills that they need. They also left armed with a toolkit of resources for teaching, learning and assessment. We also learned from delegates that they have a huge appetite for embracing technology into teaching maths.

We even learned this amazing method of multiplying the tricky numbers from 6 to 10! Try it!

We were delighted, but not entirely surprised, by the success of this event, and we are planning a similar conference later this year for our English provision.

By Julie Sinclair, Head of Development and Innovation Unit at Capital City College Group

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