chapter  12
14 Pages

The problem of curriculum sequence in mathematics

ByChristopher Ormell

I. Introduction: some problems arising from curriculum reform It is generally agreed that the subject which set the pace in the curriculum reform movement of the last fifteen years was mathematics. An. interesting research project would be to trace the spread of current ideas about curriculum development, by stages, from their epicentre in ‘new mathematics’ to a widening circle of school groups, subjects and activities. But ‘new mathematics’ which has sometimes been the envy of curriculum innovators in other fields, has characteristic problems of its own. Many of these may be seen to stem from the fact that the ‘new mathematics’ movement acquired a striking degree of support, authority and momentum almost as soon as it had begun. One of the penalties of such swift success was the widespread acceptance by teachers who joined the ‘new mathematics’ movement of an uncritical, summary, even naive, conception of what the curriculum change was all about. Today the movement has reached the stage at which it is evident that many awkward and intractable problems remain;1 some critics even go so far as to claim that the new scheme of things has deficiencies of a kind, which are different from those of the traditional scheme it deposed, but no less serious taken as a whole.2 In trying to disentangle this situation, clarity of analysis about what is wrong is obviously the prerequisite of progress. However, there is little sign of a sustained attempt on the part of the leading curriculum innovators to conduct such an analysis. Those who have identified themselves most closely with the movement, and are most aware of current criticisms and difficulties, generally have been inclined to look for the answer in directions like inadequate primary and nursery work, indifferent teacher training, lack of teachers of sufficient quality, and poor teaching methods.3