Cambridge collaborators to “take back ownership of maths”

16 March 2015

Teachers, academics and the wider maths community need to wrestle back ownership of the subject, Cambridge Assessment’s Group Chief Executive has told a conference about the future of maths.

Simon Lebus was speaking at the launch of Cambridge Mathematics, a five-year project to develop a framework that will help support world-class mathematics education for students aged from five to 19. The project is a cross-University collaboration involving the Faculty of Maths, Cambridge University Press, the Faculty of Education, and Cambridge Assessment. The maths education community both internationally and in the UK is being called upon to contribute to the project (scroll down for videos from the conference and details of how to get involved).

“The framework is about providing a neutral but structured idiom in which discussion about the shape and requirements of maths education can take place,” Simon Lebus said.

“There has been a lot of talk at today’s event about politics and how maths education can be influenced by policy makers. I think part of our responsibility as a professional community, as educators and also for those who are mathematicians, is to take ownership of the public discourse about maths and make sure we have an idiom that we own, and which recognises and captures the complex nature of the subject and the extent of the landscape in which we need to operate in order to make improvements.” 

Mr Lebus called upon everyone to engage with the consultation about the framework, including business. “One of the big frustrations we often have is that business people come and say ‘Oh, people coming into our industry, they don’t know anything about maths’, he said. “But when you say ‘Can you tell us what specific mathematical skills you want us to focus on?’ they can’t specify.” 

The framework will lie at the heart of Cambridge Maths and will have ‘can do’ statements associated with different skill levels and domains so that business can better identify the skills they need job applicants to demonstrate. The idea underpinning the framework is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) which helps to shape curricula, resources and professional development in the field of English language learning.

Earlier in the day Lynne McClure, the director of the project, set out the aims of Cambridge Mathematics.

“Frameworks of course come and go, so what is different about this? It’s an amazing opportunity to take time to reflect, to make good use of the resources of the university, to take time to produce something which is driven by the professional communities rather than policy makers’ timelines,” she said.

“We want the name of Cambridge Mathematics to be associated with a guarantee of an evidence-based curriculum and assessment; something that’s respected both nationally and internationally. It would be fantastic if you would come along on the journey with us”, she said. 

The day was divided up into lively debates around the framework itself and professional development, support resources, and assessment. It began with a video presentation by Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. He said mathematics is “absolutely fundamental to the world of tomorrow”, adding: “we owe it to our young people to make sure that they are provided with the best tools and to help teachers get the very best out of their students”. He said while “conversations can sometimes drift” Cambridge Mathematics was different because it had a very clear goal – to deliver the best maths education.

You can join the consultation on the Cambridge Mathematics website

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