Thu 2 May 2019

One down, one to go

WITT’s numbers guru Gary Sharpe is turning his attention to reading problems.

A study into numeracy deficit in Tertiary learners compiled by Gary and WITT student Hannah Hughson has just been published  here - - on the AKO Aotearoa website having earlier generated considerable interest following an article in the Herald on Sunday.

Their findings could influence a significant review of basics of teaching maths in New Zealand classrooms.

Now Gary is returning to the Tertiary Education Commission’s files to review reading data in the same way he did with numbers.

Without the data for the numbers game, finding solutions to problems was akin to punching  shadows, Gary said.

“What I want to do now is analyse  same cohort of students and look at their reading and comprehension and see if there is a link between reading skills and numeracy skills,” he said.

“I’ll put the students into quadrants – good readers who are good at math, poor readers who are poor at math, and so on – and see who is there.”

He has a personal interest in the results.

While Gary works to help WITT students combat reading and math issue, his own background is one of a student whose school marks at University Entrance Level were not flash.

“I passed biology… then left school and got an apprenticeship in automotive – then morphed back into education,” he said.

“I’m not a fast reader, but my wife is – why is that? And what can we do to assist students whose reading and comprehension needs attention?”

Gary is hoping correlating the reading results from students will provide some clues – and a comparison with their math comprehension will give further answers.

His previous work with Hannah Hughson has already generated considerable interest.

“I had a lot of calls after the Herald on Sunday story including schools who were considering changing their teaching styles.”

The report suggested finding and resolving the impediments to comprehending math was the major issue.

“I’ve had a lot of students come to me telling me they did ‘cabbage maths’ at school. It’s a horrible phrase, but that what they call it. Yet from what I see, there are a lot of smart kids in the back row of those classes.”

The results from studies into maths success and failure rates showed no significant socio-economic correlation and Gary believes the same will apply with reading.

“We have to look at the different aspects of reading – reading, writing and listening, for example, then determine what the impediments are for some people.”

“Then we won’t be punching shadows.”