Maths teachers: do not rely on one test

Test results that showed the worst average score by public primary school pupils in maths in eight years were a shock, the head of a professional council for teachers admitted yesterday.

Rebeka Sousa, president of the Bermuda Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said that the latest Cambridge Checkpoint result for Primary 6 children, rated as “poor”, was dispiriting.

She added: “I think that as a maths educator you are disappointed in seeing these kind of results because you want all of our students to be successful.”

Ms Sousa was speaking after the Cambridge Checkpoint results for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years were released on Monday.

They showed that the average score by P6 children in academic year 2018-19 was 1.9, rated as “poor”.

The previous lowest score, 2.2, was recorded in 2015-16.

But Ms Sousa said that the test result was just one indicator of pupil progress in the subject and that Bermuda relied “too heavily” on it.

She added: “You can’t just base it on this one result, this one day, this one test.”

Ms Sousa said that the best way to ensure pupil success in maths was to examine how it was being taught.

She added: “We want our teachers to look at mathematics from the perspective that it is about problem-solving, it is about critical thinking, it is about communication.

“Mathematics is a language, and we need to become more proficient in that.”

The annual Cambridge assessments were designed to rate Primary 6 and middle school year 3 pupils on the three core subjects, English, maths and science.

The Cambridge system uses scoring from zero, rated “very poor”, to 6, graded “excellent”.

Scores from 3 to 4 are classified as “good”.

Scores of between 2 and 3 are rated “OK”. Scores from 1 to 2 are “poor”.

Llewellyn Simmons, the Director of Academics at the education ministry, said all pupils were expected to score 3 or better.

Cole Simons, the shadow education minister, said that the Ministry of Education should “better utilise and support” the BCTM to help boost the Cambridge Checkpoint results.

He said: “This organisation is comprised of dedicated and committed mathematics teacher from across all of our schools and they, on their own dime, take the initiative to study math pedagogy and to find more effective ways to teach mathematics.”

Mr Simons said the BCTM was “doing a great job” to provide professional development and support to maths teachers, despite “very little resources and financial support from the Ministry of Education, despite the Ministry’s nod of approval”.

He highlighted a speech made by David Burt, the Premier, at the opening night of the Progress Labour Party’s delegates conference on Monday, where Mr Burt talked about the need to challenge the status quo.

Mr Simons said: “That same priority should be entertained when teaching maths in Bermuda. And this journey should be embarked upon with the input and support of the BCTM and its members.”

He added: “We cannot continue on the same well-trodden path and expect different results.”

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, declined to comment yesterday.

Mr Rabain was asked several questions about the Cambridge Checkpoint results.

He was asked if he was satisfied with the test for results and what they told him.

Mr Rabain was also asked whether the average score for Primary 6 pupils in mathematics indicated an increased problem and if there were any reasons for the low score.

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Published Oct 30, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 30, 2019 at 6:43 am)

Maths teachers: do not rely on one test

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