The sum of the problem?

numeracy test blog (002)

In the last three years nearly 2,000 people have been turned away from teacher training due to failing one numeracy test. So is this test adding to the shortage of teachers or is it simply ensuring that our teachers are to the best they can be? Quantity or quality?

Three years ago, Michael Gove, the then Education Secretary decided to toughen up the numeracy test and make it mandatory for aspiring teachers to pass if they want to further their training. In order to toughen up the test Mr Gove raised the pass mark, limited candidates to three attempts and didn’t allow re-takes to be taken within a two year period of failing. Since these changes were implemented nearly 2,000 teacher hopefuls have been stopped from training and ultimately becoming teachers.

The test proving to be a stumbling block for so many aspiring teachers is made up of two parts: the first section includes 12 mental arithmetic questions in which candidates have 11 minutes to answer. The second part of the test comprises of 16 written questions covering skills such as interpreting data, for this section the candidates are given a further 36 minutes.

So is the test too hard? How do you feel you’d fare? Let’s see, here are a few questions taken from a sample test:

Mental Arithmetic (50 seconds per question):

1) In a mathematics exam 3/4 of the total marks come from a written paper and 1/4 of the marks from coursework. In the written paper 1/4 of the marks come from a mental test. 

What fraction of the total marks come from the mental test? 

2) In a year group of 110 pupils, 66 pupils have school dinners.

What proportion of the year group do not have school dinners? Give your answer as a decimal. 

Written questions (2 minutes and 30seconds per question):

3) A teacher is planning a group outing to see a play in a nearby city. She has been given details of costs and travel. There are 25 in the group, including pupils and teachers. A group booking for 25 theatre tickets costs £185. Return train tickets cost £5.65 each.

How much will each person have to pay for the outing to cover the cost of travel and theatre ticket?

The Department for Education recently released figures that showed out of a total of 124,000 people taking the test, 1,962 prospective teachers failed their three attempts. Even though this figure proves small, during a time where schools are struggling to recruit teachers, it all adds up. This year the government target for teacher training was missed by a total of 6%, with a range of key subject areas failing to even reach half of targets set. Allowing the 2,000 ‘failed test’ teachers to continue their training wouldn’t fill this gap completely but it may help.

What do you think should these teachers be allowed to continue training? Are these questions too hard? What do you think? Have your say here…


15 thoughts on “The sum of the problem?

  1. “Are these questions to hard?” “Have you say here” .. This is your job and this is your standard? I hope you were joking. It is not unreasonable to expect suitable candidates to pass these tests. Teaching is supposed to be a profession.

    We need to retain the good teachers we already have, as I’m sure everyone is aware.

  2. “How do you feel you’d fair?”
    Was this piece supposed to be a joke? An article about numeracy that wouldn’t pass the literacy test?

  3. I want to train to be a teacher. I’m in my forties and I haven’t done maths like this for decades. I find the test a challenge: a challenge to go and brush up on my school maths and reacquaint myself with the knowledge I need to do a good job.
    Why on earth should it be easy or made easier to become a teacher? If we want the best for our children, and I am assuming we all do, then shouldn’t the people standing in front of them in the classroom be the best?
    If you can’t do the maths, or the English either, for that matter, then you’re not equipped to teach.

  4. Dee, you should proofread your comment before you submit it – you’ve made two mistakes in the first line. However, I do agree with you. The numeracy test is not difficult, and someone who cannot pass this test in three attempts should not be a teacher.

  5. I agree with Dee,

    These questions are not too hard and it is reasonable to expect suitable candidates to be able to answer these types of questions and pass these tests.

  6. I agree that all teachers should be the best they can be in the subject that they teach. My argument stems from the fact that I am unsure how this numeracy test ensures schools gain the best history, literacy, drama, art teacher? I really cant remember the last drama lesson involving any mathematics to be honest.

  7. I retired from teaching “A” and “GCSE” Art, Graphic design and photography. I set up the department and wrote all the courses. I couldn’t pass that maths test.

  8. The test questions are ks2/3 max they are simple arithmetic and you have a calculator. If you can’t answer these questions you should not be in a classroom you undermine the whole education system. Weed them out, in fact the test should be GCSE A*- C standard minimum.

  9. I find it sad to think that we would instantly fail any prospective teacher who was illiterate (and correctly too) but consider innumeracy as a minor problem.
    If these questions are “hard” then perhaps we really do need some sort of shake-up in the profession!

  10. I see many student teachers and supply teachers who have poor maths skills. I sit on an interview panel for a leading university and almost all of the candidates say their development area is maths. We need to recruit teachers who have a good level of numeracy – the tests are not difficult, most of my year 6 pupils could answer those questions, therefore a graduate or BA student should be able to easily pass the test. If we want to improve standards in our schools, the only way is to employ highly trained excellent teachers. If you struggle with maths, don’t become a teacher because the children deserve excellent teachers.

  11. The above questions aren’t difficult, but people might panic because of the time pressure if they have a fear of maths. What I find odd though is not being allowed to retake within two years. Does that mean if you fail the first time you have to wait two years before trying again? Or does it mean you can restart the whole process after two years?

  12. Julie, who taught various ‘A’ level subjects but could not pass the Maths test – could you analyse pupil attainment data and design spreadsheets so that you can set up your own data collections to enable you to plan your teaching to meet areas of non-attainment, etc. etc. Teaching/planning is now very data driven.

    I recently met a retired KS1 headteacher who had incorporated into an Inset training a KS2 mental maths test. She referred to a young teacher not being able to cope with the paper and being upset about it. Even at Key Stage 2, teachers often come across children who just ‘don’t get maths’. I have often found that these children’s mathematical misconceptions are too deeply embedded from poor early mathematics teaching.

    Yes, even KS1 teachers need to be competent at functional mathematics in order that they can ensure understanding for all of their children. They cannot adjust their teaching to meet all learning needs if they don’t understand maths themselves.

    And yes, I agree, one focus should be retaining competent teachers who are being driven out of the profession.

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