Mathematics: New warning about the level of 6th grade students

This is a new stone in the pond that the Scientific Council for National Education launched with its warning issued at the end of September “The worrying misunderstanding of numbers and especially fractions when entering 6.”e ». Only half of the students find the correct answer to the question “How many quarters of an hour are in three quarters of an hour?” » and 22% place the fraction ½ correctly on a scale from 0 to 5, this council, led by neuropsychologist Stanislas Dehaene, finds on the Based on statistical data from the Ministry of National Education.

“When entering 6emost students ignore the meaning of the simplest fractions »concludes the scientific council. “There have been no positive developments for three years”still notices the instance while “The enormous deficit in the understanding of fractions continues to be observed throughout the school” : Evaluations still show an error rate of 45% for simple fractions in seconds.

While France devotes 21% of school time to mathematics in primary school – compared to the OECD average of 16% – how do we come to this observation? “far from being a novelty”, according to the teachers surveyed? The late introduction of these concepts, which are among the most difficult in the primary school curriculum, is one of the most frequently cited explanations.

“Urgency of strong action”

If, according to ministerial recommendations, decimal numbers must be taught from November of the CM1 year, at this point they see only 6% of classes, according to a report from the Inspectorate General on the average rate of April 2022. Classes start learning decimal numbers from the end of March and in 28% of classes in May or June. “Leaving students, particularly those most at risk, with very little time to grapple with these new numbers.”underlines this report.

“Teachers mistakenly prefer to focus first on grasping large numbers, additions and subtractions, which creates some imbalance in learning.”argues Charles Torossian, co-author with mathematician Cédric Villani of the 2018 report “21 Actions for Mathematics Education,” which led to the development of a mathematics plan that has been implemented ever since.

In this context, particular emphasis is placed on the further training of teachers. Since 2018, almost 160,000 school teachers have been trained in small groups; 1,800 mathematics advisers have been appointed across all academies. To support teachers, tools and progress benchmarks have been created across the program.

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