Obituary: Hilary Shuard

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The Independent Online
Hilary Shuard, mathematician and educationalist, born Chester 14 November 1928, teacher Christ's Hospital Hertford 1953-59, staff mathematics department Homerton College Cambridge 1959-86, Deputy Principal 1966-86, CBE 1987, died Cambridge c24 December 1992.

HILARY SHUARD was an internationally known expert on mathematics in primary schools.

Shuard's teaching career started in 1953 at Christ's Hospital School, Hertford. In 1959 she moved to Homerton College, Cambridge, where she spent the remainder of a very productive life almost entirely concerned with the education of teachers. In 1986 she retired as Deputy Principal, a post she had held for 20 years. Even then she did not leave Homerton since, as Director of a Primary Mathematics Project known as Prime, she was able to secure an office in college which she kept until her death.

She brought zest, enthusiasm and dedication to everything she did. She was a very popular lecturer, adored by primary teachers, and a prolific writer of books, articles and reviews of all kinds. Perhaps the book of which she was most proud was Primary Mathematics Today, originally published in 1970 with Elizabeth Williams but updated many times by Shuard after Williams's death. It is now a standard text and required reading by all primary teachers in training.

One of Shuard's passions, which dominated much of her work for the last 10 years, was to ensure that calculators are widely used in primary schools. She was convinced, as a member of the Cockcroft committee, that the evidence pointed to calculators making significant changes to the way number work is approached. She had a vision that the traditional pencil and paper algorithms would be replaced by mental methods and the calculator. As soon as the Cockcroft report, Mathematics Counts, was published in 1982 she began seeking funds to carry out her ideas, leading to the Primary Initiatives in Mathematics Education (Prime) project, based at Homerton from 1986 to 1989. A significant part of Prime was devoted to calculators. Shuard loved acronyms and after a little thought came up with the CAN (standing for Calculator- Aware Number) curriculum.

The CAN project demonstrated that six-year-olds could understand and handle far larger numbers than teachers had traditionally expected. This evidence was to play a significant role in shaping the National Curriculum for England and Wales introduced in 1989. Shuard was, of course, a member of the Working Party which constructed the National Curriculum. Indeed, it would be unthinkable to have had a national committee concerned with mathematics education on which she did not sit.

It would be easy to continue with a long list of memorable contributions that Shuard made to primary mathematics such as her delight that, as a judge, she was able to persuade other judges to award the 1992 TES Mathematics Teacher of the Year award to an infants teacher, or the unilateral decision that 1988 would be 'Primary Mathematics Year'. It was.

It was a great success and gave many primary teachers the confidence to have 'maths days' or 'maths weeks' when events took place in schools, in public libraries and in supermarkets in addition to innumerable newspaper articles, local radio and television broadcasts.

Although Hilary Shuard will be remembered for her work in primary mathematics, she made contributions to many other aspects of mathematics education, particularly the education of girls. She made major contributions to the work of the Mathematical Association over a period of many years, and was its President in 1985-86. She wrote books for A level students and was recently involved in a Nuffield A level project which she had to withdraw from because of pressure of work.

Just before she died, her work included a major piece of writing on the National Curriculum for Hertfordshire, starting a new infants scheme with the Cambridge University Press, in addition to being co-director with me of a very challenging production of secondary textbooks - Nuffield National Curriculum Mathematics (Levels 4 to 10). Other interests included work for the GPDST schools, and playing hockey and cricket.

She was appointed CBE in the New Year's Honours in 1987. Unfortunately, a serious motor accident delayed the investiture. She made a miraculous recovery and within a year was back to normal.

One final memory. At the International Congress on Mathematical Education held in Adelaide in 1984, Hilary Shuard found she was sowing seeds about the use of calculators on fairly stony ground. In 1988, in Budapest, the international audience was receptive. Four years later in Quebec, in August 1992, the message was being accepted by international colleagues who were puzzled that Hilary Shuard still had a battle in England to get her ideas accepted. But then she liked a battle, especially in the cause of mathematics education.

(Photograph omitted)