Comparing like with like

“Researchers asked 3,000 11 to 14-year- olds in England to sit maths exams taken by pupils in 1976, and compared their scores with the earlier results. Analysis suggested there was little difference between the two generations.” BBC News article (no attribution)

What I noticed about this research is the way ‘maths’ is assumed to have some kind of independent existence. School maths has changed over the last 30 years, and so using 30 year old exams now is going to measure something else. Later in the BBC article,

“Thirty years ago, pupils would sometimes convert decimals into fractions to solve a problem, but those taking the tests now did the reverse, researchers found.”

So we have different strategies for solving problems (presumably without a calculator) reduced to a scalar variable (marks on a test) and the score is then used as a measure. Seems a bit reductive.

Jeremy Hodgen is a distinguished academic in a major University department, so I’m sure there is more to the research. I shall try to find the full report.

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