We were interested to hear about the plans to translate Chinese maths textbooks into English to allow British schoolchildren to use them, as described in this article.
The article confirms that while Chinese students score very highly in world rankings for maths, British students are far behind, on a level with Portugal and the Czech Republic. This is particularly problematic as our economy moves further towards a reliance on Technology and professional services, which require a high level of mathematical and scientific proficiency. If Britain’s maths teaching does not improve, we are storing up problems for ourselves in the future, potentially leading to difficulties in competing in high tech industries which are so crucial to our future success.
At Notebook Tutors, maths is our most popular subject for tuition and we get the most enquiries about it by some distance. Many students have difficulties in grasping the concepts and techniques as taught in class, while others simply need much more practice before they are fully comfortable in tackling tricky questions by themselves. Frequently the lack of one-to-one attention in classes leads to some students being left behind, and their teacher not having the time or resources to assist them individually. It is clear to us that considerable progress must be made in the way we approach maths teaching in schools, before our students will be able to compete on the world stage.
The article linked above raises some interesting points about the compatibility of the approach advocated in Chinese textbooks with the culture and education system in Britain, and notes in particular the differences in teacher training between the two countries – for example, in Britain most primary school teachers will teach all subjects, while in China primary teachers are specialised for particular subjects – and the amount of time a Chinese student will be expected to spend on learning – mentioning additional teaching and weekend school, which are not typical features of the education system here in Britain. At this stage it is not clear how these differences will affect the efficacy of the Chinese textbooks when tried in British schools.
Whether or not this initiative works, we will continue to provide high-quality one-to-one tutoring for our students. We think it is likely that no in-class approach to maths is likely to be as effective as individual private tuition with an experienced tutor, where a student’s individual strengths and weaknesses can be assessed and their weaknesses specifically targeted. If you are interested in maths tutoring, please see our maths subject page.