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Laying the foundations of numeracy: a comparison of primary school textbooks in Britain, Germany and Switzerland


  • Helvia Bierhoff



The foundations of mathematical competence laid by primary schools in Germany and Switzerland are compared with Britain on the basis of the main textbooks used in the three countries, supported by observations of classroom practice. The study forms part of the National Institute's wider research programme into comparative productivity, education and training which has repeatedly noted the mathematical deficiencies of British school-leavers. The study examines, among other matters, the greater emphasis given to mental calculation in Continental schools, the more detailed gradation of successive learning-steps, greater number of practice-exercises at each step, and greater continuity in the teaching of each topic. British pupils' attainments could be improved by textbooks which gave more attention to these aspects but, the author stresses, classroom organisation and teaching methods in Britain would also benefit from closer attention to Continental practices.

Suggested Citation

  • Helvia Bierhoff, 1996. "Laying the foundations of numeracy: a comparison of primary school textbooks in Britain, Germany and Switzerland," National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) Discussion Papers 90, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:nsr:niesrd:247

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