Remembering the Nuffield Maths Project #1960s

British primary school teachers of a certain age will probably recognise the image that heads up this post.

I have very fond memories of this and the other teachers’ guides in the series.

But I’d forgotten the books completely until I read Mathematics: Set theory for six-year-olds in “Nature: the International Journal of Science”. Not that I read that august journal on a regular basis. A friend in USA had posted a link on Facebook to an article in the journal and set theory for six year olds was in the “you might also like column” in the sidebar of the website.

The article made for fascinating reading and provided an interesting context to a project which I’d always thought was peculiarly British. Now I know different!

Starting in the mid-sixties, the Nuffield Mathematics Project presented a new approach to learning mathematics for children aged 5–13. The project built on children’s own experience and encouraged them to think for themselves. Stop and read that sentence again!

Think for themselves. What a novel idea!

The project focussed on how children learn rather than what to teach. The key concept was understanding not rote learning.  One of the introductory guides was actually entitled “I do and I understand”.

Attributed to Confucius:

I hear and I forget 

I see and I remember 

I do and I understand

was the teaching mantra of the Swinging Sixties. Not everyone is convinced though.

There’s more information about the maths project on this page of the Nuffield website. But the books seem to have become very rare. There’s a second-hand copy of “Shape and Size” available on Amazon for 70p and “Beginnings” is on Ebay for £7.49.

2Nuffield Maths

You can also get “Shape and Size” on Ebay for £7.49 but that seems to be it. So if your old college copies are in the loft or garage they might be good for topping up the pension!

3Nuffield Maths

Thanks for reading my blog today.

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