[Maths-Education] Report published on the teaching and learning of geometry
Keith Jones
D.K.Jones@soton.ac.uk
Fri, 03 Aug 2001 18:17:58 +0100
Colleagues (with apologies if you get this more than once)
The (UK) Royal Society/Joint Mathematical Council report on the teaching=20
and learning of geometry for students aged 11-19 has just been published.=20
The full report (together with a four-page summary) is available for=20
download from the Royal Society website (http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/). A=20
hard copy of the full report is available by sending an A4 self-addressed=20
envelope (marked =91Geometry Report=92) to:
The Education Department,
The Royal Society,
6 Carlton House Terrace,
London SW1Y 5AG
Single copies of the report are available free of charge to schools,=20
colleges and other educational institutions. For other organisations, or=20
for multiple copies of the report, a charge of =A315 per copy applies, and=
=20
cheques made payable to =91The Royal Society=92 should accompany orders.=20
Alternatively it can be ordered through booksellers. The title of the=20
report is "Teaching and Learning Geometry 11-19" (Chair: Prof Adrian=20
Oldknow) and the ISBN is: 0 85403 563X
Below is the text of the Royal Society press release which gives a flavour=
=20
of the contents of the report (which establishes 8 key principles in the=20
teaching and learning of geometry and makes 16 recommendations).
Keith Jones
University of Southampton, UK
------------------
Royal Society Press Release 02 August 2001: Teachers should focus on=20
geometry as well as numeracy.
The (UK) Government should abandon the use of the word =91numeracy=92 in its=
=20
literature for schools because it is encouraging teachers to neglect=20
subjects like geometry during mathematics courses, a report by the Royal=20
Society and the Joint Mathematical Council recommends today (2 August).
The lack of geometry in A and AS level mathematics mean that they no longer=
=20
provide a suitable foundation for most university science and engineering=20
courses, the report warns. It recommends a fundamental review of=20
mathematics for 16 to 19 year-olds in order to place a greater emphasis on=
=20
geometry.
The report also calls for changes to the National Curriculum so that pupils=
=20
spend at least a quarter of their time in maths lessons learning geometry.=
=20
It points out that at least one study has found English schoolchildren=92s=
=20
relative test scores in geometry fall dramatically between the ages of 10=20
and 14 when compared to pupils in other countries.
Professor Adrian Oldknow, chairman of the working group that prepared the=20
report, said: =93Even though a wide range of disciplines, from architecture=
=20
to drug design, require a thorough understanding of geometrical principles,=
=20
many students still struggle to understand shapes, particularly in three=20
dimensions, even after gaining advanced level qualifications in=
mathematics.=94
He added: =94Part of the problem is the Government=92s obsession with using=
the=20
word numeracy instead of mathematics. This encourages teachers to underplay=
=20
the importance of subjects such as geometry. The Government needs to=20
recognise that there is more to mathematics than numbers.=94
Mathematics teachers often find it difficult to teach geometry because of=20
fundamental gaps in their own knowledge, the report concludes. Many=20
secondary school teachers are not graduates in mathematics, but even a=20
degree does not always provide appropriate training in geometry. The report=
=20
recommends that mathematics teachers should undertake further professional=
=20
training in geometry.
The report highlights the importance of teaching pupils to understand=20
three-dimensional geometry. Prof Oldknow said: =93Even the application of=
the=20
results of the Human Genome Project requires a good grasp of geometry, as=20
it is crucial to understand the shapes of proteins that are produced from=20
the genetic blueprints.=94
The report recommends that schools should make better use of computers to=20
teach geometry, and calls for the creation of more software that will help=
=20
pupils to develop skills such as spatial awareness. It also suggests that=20
the experience of wrestling with challenging and interesting geometric=20
problems might even encourage more students to pursue careers in=20
mathematics, and thereby help to solve the shortage of teachers.