Bruce Lenger – Learning Area Leader, Mathematics

In recent times I have had the opportunity to spend some time living and teaching in the United Kingdom. This experience enabled me to see a different approach to education, and in particular, Mathematics. 

The school I taught in, like many in the area, had a mastery orientated, skills-based approach to the teaching of Mathematics. This approach tried to emulate the success of countries such as China and Singapore in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Mathematics rankings.

PISA is a study that assesses 600,000 15-year-olds from 79 countries every three years, comparing Mathematics, Reading and Science performance. Whilst PISA is a “test”, some see it as a way to compare educational outcomes in our global economy where our children may well compete for careers with other children from all over the world.

Whilst this mastery approach did lift the UK Mathematics rankings above Australia’s, the PISA test did, however, highlight a very interesting fact. Whilst UK students performed better (on average) in recalling and using curriculum-based factual and procedural knowledge, Australian students performed better (on average) in applying general Mathematical and Scientific principles and skills to everyday problems.

As it happens, global company Dyson has its headquarters in Malmesbury, the town in which I lived and worked. James Dyson, inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner, has decided to create his own university to help train engineers to work in his company.  

The entrance to this university is determined not only by academic performance but also an ability to think creatively and work collaboratively. It is a university where both the knowledge and application (creative use) of Mathematics will be the focus, because Dyson desires to develop engineers with a balance of knowledge, practical application and creativity. 

It is my personal belief that good Mathematics classrooms contain a mixture of these different aspects of Mathematics as well.  

Like Dyson, we at Cornerstone College believe that a good Mathematics classroom not only develops important skills but also helps them to approach Mathematics with the understanding that these skills be applied creativity and collaboratively to help solve challenging problems.