NRICH Response to the Draft Primary Curriculum

NRICH: Partners with you in developing rich mathematical learning

What will become of pattern sniffers, tinkerers and inventors if this new draft National Curriculum for primary mathematics becomes law?
In his recent letter to Tim Oates regarding the new draft National Curriculum, the Secretary of State wrote that one of the purposes of this new National Curriculum was to safeguard each child’s entitlement to a secure foundation on which they can build their own education. It raises the question of what a secure foundation looks like. Number fluency and strategies for efficient calculation are a part of that yet there are deeper, more significant life-skill tools that we need to support our children to develop.  Al Cuoco described these as Habits of Mind and used fascinating words such as Pattern sniffers, Experimenters, Describers, Tinkerers, Inventors, Visualisers, Conjecturers and Guessers.
Here at NRICH we believe these to be fundamental to working and thinking mathematically – and essential to any primary curriculum.

And for what purpose? In a recent survey of employers carried out by ACME, many of the employers interviewed said that they saw mathematics as a subject of intellectual power and that that the best interests of their companies would not be served by an education system restricting young people to a diet of the particular techniques they were likely to use in their day-to-day work. Furthermore, it is now the case that in the workforce there is a steady shift away from manual and low-skill jobs towards those requiring higher levels of management expertise and problem-solving skills, many of which are mathematical in nature.

We believe that the draft National Curriculum needs to be revised to offer children significant opportunities to begin to develop their intellectual power and problem-solving skills in mathematics. Practice and fluency can be achieved through open-ended, creative tasks that foster pattern-sniffers and tinkerers. One does not have to be sacrificed for the sake of the other. The introduction to the primary mathematics curriculum states that problem solving and reasoning are two of the three aims. In its description of problem solving are embedded the key ideas behind Al Cuoco’s Habits of Mind.
This needs to be developed in the detailed Programmes of Study so that teachers can see how to embed this in their classrooms on a daily basis.

Let’s give our children the best start we can so that they become confident and competent in their mathematical learning, develop their intellectual power and are equipped for the challenges of 21st Century life.

1. Al Cuoco Habits of Mind: an organising principle for the mathematics curriculum 1996

2. Mathematical Needs: Mathematics in the Workplace and Higher Education