Letter: Fail-safe methods?

March 15, 2002

Streaming without a change in teaching methods is unlikely to solve the problem of students whose mathematics is weak ("Keeping up with the smart 'set'", THES , March 1). It is more likely to reinforce their sense of failure and the feeling that they "can't do maths".

When I faced this problem 30 years ago with sixthformers with an arts background who wanted to switch to the sciences at university, I put them on self-instructional materials so they could work at their own pace, and if they got things wrong, only they knew.

The result was that they all learned maths to an adequate level. The reasons, they said, were that they needed to govern their own time and did not want to be put into public failure situations.

Lewis Elton
University College London

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