Pupils in Wales have ‘no idea’ how to take maths tests, report warns

The BBC is reporting that many pupils in Wales have no idea how to take a maths test, according to a highly critical report…

From May next year, children will sit numerical reasoning tests in an effort to improve numeracy skills.

But the results of pre-testing revealed learners did not understand basic concepts or check their work, copied from each other, gave ridiculous answers or left most questions blank.

Education Minister Huw Lewis said he would boost funding for the tests.

The report was drawn up for the Welsh government by Acumina, the company which will be running the tests.

One teacher cited in the report said: “The numeracy was not the problem – children don’t have knowledge of how to sit a test.”

The report, which examined the results from sample tests taken in May 2013 by more than 200 children in each school year between 2 and 9, says:

  • The pre-test provided clear evidence of a lack of understanding of how to work in a test situation. Some learners had clearly copied from each other. Others had little or no knowledge of how to use their time effectively, including checking their answers.
  • Many learners left some or most of the questions blank. There appeared to be a reluctance to ‘try and see’. Rather, if the route through a problem was not immediately apparent, pupils of all ages appeared reluctant to engage.
  • Some learners clearly did not know the meaning of words such as ‘total’, ‘fewer than’, ‘height’, ‘perimeter’, ‘area’ and ‘profit’. This was worse for the younger children but was still evident for older year groups.
  • Some children displayed a worrying lack of number sense giving answers that made no sense within the given context. Many learners adopted an ‘if in doubt, add’ strategy to a wide range of problems. There was almost no evidence of checking strategies.
  • Many learners appeared not to know how to use a calculator effectively. In all year groups, some learners used their calculator inappropriately, for example adding £5.99 and 85p to give the answer £90.99 and many struggled to interpret, for example, 1.5 in the context of money, giving the answer £1 and 5 pence.

Average scores were low for all age groups, according to the report, ranging from 19% to 29%.

Mr Lewis said: “Findings from the numerical reasoning pre-test have revealed that the scores for the test items were lower than might otherwise have been expected for the relevant age groups, and that a number of factors appeared to have contributed to these.

“In response, I am announcing that I will provide a comprehensive package of support to be delivered through an increase in funding of £800,000 to the National Support Programme for literacy and numeracy.

“This support package will be bespoke to the needs of schools, and contribute to the on-going, long-term improvement of teaching and learning in numerical reasoning.”

In its report, Acumina said: “We recognise that the outcomes from the pre-test must be treated with a degree of caution, since the sample sizes are small and not always representative of national performance.

“Nonetheless, there is a clear issue in terms of level of performance.

“As these tests will be new to schools in May 2014, it is likely that performance will be considerably lower than ideal as teachers and learners begin to understand the new framework and the expectations regarding numerical reasoning.

“However, the fact that a very few learners scored highly on the pre-test offers reassurance high standards are attainable.”

…National testing was abolished in Wales in 2004, but is being brought back by the Welsh government in an attempt to raise standards in schools amid concern about poor performance…

More at:  Pupils have ‘no idea’ how to take maths tests, report warns

Is this an inevitable consequence of a brand new testing regime or something that should be a cause for concern? Please share in the comments or on twitter… 

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Categories: Primary and Wales.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Pupils have always and will always do/write ridiculous stuff under pressure in an exam hall. No amount of money will stop it

  2. PeterHutchinso5

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove However many interventions and revision sessions you have provided, you have to stand impotently by and watch!

  3. andylutwyche

    PeterHutchinso5 SchoolsImprove They don’t mean to – it happens. No point dwelling, just improve on it for next time!

  4. PeterHutchinso5

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove I don’t believe any kid says : “I’m estimated an A*, but I’m going to get a B just to embarrass sir.” !

  5. SianColbourne

    andylutwyche-We all Improve with practise, eg.-reading-writing-sport etc. Pupils must be familiar & confident with the style of questions.

  6. TeaLadyJune

    g56g And, of course, with such testing comes teaching to the test & so the process seems to continue. Does anybody really know what works?

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