What is maths for?
Rather than dwell on the state of mathematics, the distinguished panel of university and teacher training mathematicians (NZ Herald, February 2) might ask "what is the end of mathematics?"
What is the purpose of teaching mathematics to students in schools? The status quo in mathematics education has taken it to the place where it is now. A re-think is needed.
A group of engineers, medical experts, the business community, digital technologists, the construction community, and others involved in teaching applied and technical subjects would be able to talk about the uses to which they put mathematics.
The maths experts can then focus on the pathways to success for school students by their understanding of the applications of mathematics. At appropriate levels, students can grasp these and be excited.
Too much schooling is for no obvious reason for too many students. And of course, we need students who succeed at the university level in mathematics – that might be an important reason for learning maths - but it is unlikely to be the main purpose for its role in the curriculum and the successful education of all students.
Dr Stuart Middleton, Remuera.
In the 1960s, New Zealand was a world leader in education.
Virtually every successive government since then has tinkered. Now the education system is fragmented and, in many cases, caters to the lowest common denominator.
Auckland Grammar is a traditional school that represents what was largely the education system as it was, and which works. The school strongly, and correctly resists any policy to reinvent the wheel, unlike so many others.
The education system should use places like this as the model and then get other schools up to par with what is a successful operation instead of continually experimenting with new ideas.
When I was at school the three key subjects were reading, writing and arithmetic. I would add financial training to the curriculum, which has always been missing.
If a student develops a fear of maths early on then it can be very hard to get on top of. It needs to be properly taught by experienced mathematics teachers who have the ability and passion for the work.
I suspect such people are getting harder to find - particularly so with a broken system. Improvements are acceptable but experimentation is disastrous.
Paul Beck, West Harbour.
If the NZ Herald were to dredge through countless letters to the editor over the past 15 years or so, many readers have alerted the Ministry of Education to the continuous dropping standards of maths achievement in our schools, particularly in the primary sector.
Without basic facts and basic processes as the foundation of maths knowledge no other skills can be adequately achieved. Mastering basic facts and basic processes give all students an element of success; it's good old fashioned, no nonsense numbers.
Paper-pencil-hand-arm-brain is the necessary pathway to maths. Chuck out all devices, (other than scientific calculators at higher levels, of course). Devices impede development and understanding because they lack the necessary pathway. Even the flickering screen is an impediment to learning.
The Ministry of Education needs to monitor the number of lower decile schools being gulled into the purchase of online maths programmes.
Better late than never I suppose… but even now, the ministry is mumbling and unapologetic about its inadequacy at addressing this enormous deficit in young NZers' maths education.
Heather Mackay, Kerikeri.
We do not need another panel of experts because years of underperformance highlight clearly where the problems lie. Firstly, we have teachers who can't teach, in this case maths, but somehow are supposedly "great facilitators" of learning experiences in the classroom. Secondly, the NZ Curriculum Statement of 2007 is sparse on actual content and makes "experiences" central to teaching rather than knowledge and skills. To cap it all off, we have a woefully inadequate teacher training and recruitment programme.
Shane Kennedy, Wattle Downs.
What is the point of having a body like the Education Review Office if it can't recognise difficulties in the education system? Recently reported steadily declining results over the 30 years since ERO was established indicate a systemic failure of the ERO.
That office clearly missed failures in national standards, reading and mathematics teaching and teacher training and development.
Perhaps the millions saved by abolishing this catastrophic failure of a bureaucracy could be invested in a central advisory service and perhaps teacher training colleges.
Roger Young, Opua.
Lower the boom
Shane Te Pou (NZ Herald, February 2) continues the negativity about "boomers".
John Banks is barely a "boomer". Born in December 1945, he hardly fits with the surge of births following the return of soldiers at the end of WWII.
Don Brash is absolutely not a "boomer", being born in 1940.
Labelling any negative-speaking older people as "boomers" is a really unfortunate way of perpetuating the negative stereotype. How about a "boomer" label for those who actually are "boomers" and are making a positive contribution?
A good start would be to acknowledge that Mike Moore, the subject of Shane's piece, was a "boomer".
Judy Lawry, Golflands.
Speaker Trevor Mallard (NZ Herald, February 2) declines to relax dress code in parliament. It's not a matter of relaxing, it's a matter of societal and cultural change, and it's no longer the 19th Century.
It's sexist to require people to wear different items of clothing based on their sex. In this case women can wear anything the men wear including trousers, suit and tie or not.
Woe betide any man in parliament if they showed cleavage or part of their chest, foot, leg or arms or any skin for that matter. Men must remain bound up in straight-jackets.
Bernard Jennings, Wellington.
Security matters is an all encompassing term. Here it applies to domestic terrorism.
What is clear from Dr Damien Rogers (NZ Herald, February 3) is New Zealand's need for an outside, independent assessment of our systems, threats and priorities.
The Americans, Israelis and British all possess a wealth of experience, professional personnel and proven tactics in combatting domestic terrorism. Preliminary assessments by all three of our needs is one place to start.
However Rogers' recommended national security adviser should be routinely answerable and professionalism assessed by a supervisory authority.
"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" "Who watches the watchmen?" Juvenal. May be a cliche, but it is also a truism.
The New Zealand taxpayer would accept no less.
Hugh Allan, New Lynn.
Lots of recent interest in the probable, almost certain, move of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck from the Warriors to rugby.
What a lot of people won't know is that, apart from Roger's experience in the Otahuhu College 1st XV, he was also a member of the College Rifles (Auckland) club rugby side, which won the 2011 Cook Islands International Sevens tournament.
Rugby won't be strange to him.
Dennis Ross, Glendowie.
I agree with everything Annette Mills says in her letter (NZ Herald, February 1). My neighbour and I went to the city last week for a visit, the first time in a year.
The layout of the road seemed bizarre, large white concrete blocks, a cycleway, and when we gave up on the whole depressing scene and decided to catch a bus we had to walk out into the street, no kerbside collection, forcing the cars behind the bus to all stop while we got on.
To take the traffic out of Queen St is stupid, the traffic and movement of people make for a vibrant and happening atmosphere. We used to really enjoy our trips into the city but unfortunately the place is no longer inviting.
Diane Brown, Northcote.
Short & sweet
As regards the "road blocks" in the north being unlawful, do the complainants not realise that they are there for safety reasons. Defending oneself against an intruder is also illegal but one does it for safety reasons.
Marie Kaire, Whangarei.
In case the ministry missed it, standing still in a world of progress is the same as going backwards. Kent Millar, Blockhouse Bay.
I find it incredible that people can apparently graduate with a university degree in education without even having the "confidence" to teach 10- 12-year-olds maths. Tatiana Kalnins, Papakura.
With NCEA allowing so many "soft" options to get pass marks in largely irrelevant subjects, students working through secondary school "exams" will nearly always take the easy options. Until core subjects are compulsory, there will be no change to this trend. Derek Paterson, Sunnyhills.
Reducing teachers' workloads and increasing salaries for experienced teachers (currently there is a salary cap after 10 years) would go a long way towards making teaching a more attractive profession to maths graduates. Raewyn Maybury, Westmere.
Fletcher's can buy 20ha of Riverhead land to build houses, but the roads, transport, and schools out that way, remain a mess. Can we move people to places where fruit and vegetables do not grow so good – like Twizel? Glenn Forsyth, Taupo.
The irony, of course, is that on the same day that the Myanmar military removed the will of the people by way of a coup d'etat, the Labour Government removed the opportunity for New Zealanders to express their will by way of a referendum in regards to Māori wards in local goverment. Brian McLachlan, Onerahi.