In this chapter, Cooper describes and analyses the 1993 pilots of the SATs in mathematics for 11-year-olds, looking at the presentation of the material to children, and the boundary between common-sense, or everyday, knowledge, and mathematical discourse.*


Mathematics is a key part of the curriculum in all developed educational systems. As such, alongside studies in the dominant language of a society, success and failure in it play an important role in the distribution of educational and more general opportunities to children and young people. Until fairly recently, in England and elsewhere, success in elementary school mathematics was achieved by demonstrating a capacity to memorize, reproduce and use relatively simple algorithms (e.g. for carrying out long division) (Griffiths and Howson, 1974). However, in recent years, there has been considerable change in school mathematics. A number of writers have begun to apply a variety of broadly sociological insights in analysing these changes. They have discussed both the origins of the changes and their consequences, and, more generally, the nature of school mathematics (e.g. Cooper, 1985a; Noss et al., 1990; Abraham and Bibby, 1992). A particular concern has been the relationship between school mathematics and the social origins of pupils studying its various differentiated versions (e.g. Spradberry, 1976; Cooper, 1985b; Ruthven, 1986; Dowling, 1991). It is clear from these studies, as well as from more general considerations, that it is unhelpful to regard either mathematics education or mathematics per se as somehow above and beyond the social sphere (Mackenzie, 1981; Bloor, 1991; Restivo, 1991).