Uphill task for colleges

November 22, 1996

NEWS THAT 13-year-olds in England are failing at mathematics has been seized on by the London Mathematical Society as further confirmation of sharply declining ability among students.

The study of pupils' ability in mathematics and science covered 40 countries and was conducted by the Boston-based International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement in collaboration with the National Foundation for Educational Research in the United Kingdom.

It says that while 13-year-olds in England are performing well in science, their average overall mathematics score was "significantly" lower than those in about half the countries in the study.

Peter Saunders, professor of applied mathematics at King's College, London, and incoming chairman of the education committee of the LMS says the findings are "depressing but not surprising".

English pupils scored below the international average for Years 8 and 9 in fractions and number sense; geometry; algebra, measurement and proportionality. "We see the same sorts of weaknesses in students as they enter universities. The message is that the trouble begins long before sixth-form. If the foundations have not been properly laid, the teachers face an uphill task."

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