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Proposals for more maths rote learning 'don't add up'

The Government's plans to reintroduce rote-learning maths teaching in primary schools are "seriously flawed" and will undermine attempts to raise standards, experts warn today.

They concentrate too much on memorising times tables, with little attempt to make maths teaching more innovative by linking pupils' learning to real-life problem solving, according to National Numeracy, a charity set up to help adults and pupils who struggle with the subject.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, its chairman Chris Humphries said the proposals would deliver an "overloaded and undeliverable curriculum". Under the plans, due to be implemented in September 2014, pupils must learn their times tables by the age of nine and progress to more complex elements – such as algebra and geometry – by the time they leave primary school. However, Mr Humphries says too much emphasis is put on rote learning and too little about using maths in real-life contexts. "The Government must undertake significant work to improve the proposals – even if this delays the planned timetable," he adds, claiming that they contain "serious flaws and need significant improvement".

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "The plan for primary school maths will put our curriculum on a par with the best in the world...It is high time rigour was restored – children must know their tables up to 12 off by heart, how to multiply and divide fractions and have good mental arithmetic."