Friday, February 22, 2013


My niece in Massachussetts sent me an extract from the New Zealand Herald about our Minister for Education  Evidently Ms Parata  is considering a return to basic Arithmetic in the Primary Schools syllabus.

She needs to study  history, then engage her brain before she sets her mouth in motion.

In 1949-50, when I was a student at Ardmore Teachers Training College ourMaths tutor, Ernest Duncan, taught us and anybody else who would listen about Numbers and how to organise them so  it was easy to understand the processes. The same Ernest Duncan left New Zealand to lecture in the United States, It took twenty years for his ideas to be accepted here. He organised the New School Mathematics programme and brilliant advisers like Joan Paske in Wellington devised programmes for teachers to put into effect. There were charismatic advisers like Nan Tiddy and school inspectors; like Kelvin Smythe who helped teachers put into practise what research showed about children's learning.

At the same time Duncan and the other lecturers at Ardmore were teaching us about child development, how a young brain works, the stages of understanding involved.

 Ms Parata herself needs to  go back to basics and learn about how children's brains  develop. Children are not sheep to  be fed through the drafting yards of rote learning. They are not in a race against other nationalities.  Right now our children are living the only life they will have, they should be developing ideas and concepts which will help them live that life with confidence. Telling them they are three seconds behind in answering an algorithm is not the way.

1. CHILDREN LEARN THROUGH PLAY.  At each stage of development every child practices the next stage through play. (Professor Brian Sutton-Smith Queens University New York; one of our New Zealanders who escaped our puritannical regulated culture).

2. CHILDREN NEED FREE PLAY WITH CONCRETE (REAL) MATERIALS. Piaget, Cuisennaire and dozens of others have preached this for decades. Children need loads of physical experience, running, jumping, dancing, throwing, catching, dropping,and talking about what they are doing ; That is the way they develop Mathematical concepts.

3. CHILDREN NEED TO DEVELOP A SENSE OF RHYTHM AND BALANCE.  That way they eventually recognise the patterns which make learning, Arithmetic especially. logical and easy.

4. CHILDREN NEED PARENTS WHO UNDERSTAND THEIR DEVELOPMENT, who don't see schooling at a mindless race.They need to be involved and their children's teachers need to accept them as allies. .

ALSO Schools need small classes, fifteen max. and young, well trained teachers. Many  enlightened ideas about child development have withered because penny pinching governments refuse to spend the money needed for educational improvement.


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