Are We Dumbing Down?

Are We Dumbing Down?

Saving Maths in Poland

Every third student taking secondary school final exams in Poland failed in mathematics in 2014. Teachers say the test questions were not excessively difficult, so the high fail rate is alarming. Professor Edyta Gruszczyk-Kolczyńska denounces the low quality of maths education in Polish schools, especially in primary schools, which causes a knowledge deficit and an unwilling attitude to maths. She believes that fatal errors are made in the first three years of schooling. According to her research, the first eight months at primary school are enough for children to lose interest in mathematics, stop enjoying it, and even develop an outright dislike of the subject. Primary education is frequently underestimated and wrongly so, since it is then that children develop the intellectual schemata that they will later use in life. These schemata include abilities in classifying, cause-effect reasoning and predicting possible developments. Failure to help children develop such mental skills early on has serious implications. With integrated education in the first three years of school in Poland, teachers dedicate too little time and attention to activities that develop mathematical thinking. Ready-made teaching aids tend not to be stimulating or interesting enough for children. As a remedy, Professor Gruszczyk-Kolczyńska proposes that mathematics be taught as a separate subject rather than part of integrated education from the first grade of primary school. However, the Polish public education system is slow to change. The market, on the other hand, is more flexible and quicker to act and has already responded to the evident shortcomings of school mathematical education with various types of maths activities for children offered by private centres and some universities. Gazeta Wyborcza has just launched its third “Mathematics Counts” campaign designed to show that maths is universal, omnipresent and fascinating. The project will comprise the publication of articles on various aspects of mathematics, a contest for schools and a Maths Festival on 20 June with workshops and activities for various age groups.
Gazeta Wyborcza

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