Can "Harry Potter" math save our schools?

All is forgiven, J.K. Rowling.


Farhad Manjoo
November 16, 2007 1:14AM (UTC)

OK, one more tangle with J.K. Rowling. Every week we Salon writers do a short recap video for Current TV; this week, I went on about Rowling's fight against the Harry Potter Lexicon, which I wrote about here and here. Here's that:

But let's not fight about that again, OK?

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Instead, to show you I'm all right with Rowling, here's something cool. Per Jason Kottke, a primary school in the U.K. has jumped from the bottom quarter of schools to near the top 5 percent using a Potterite teaching method.

From the Daily Mail:

During the most recent visit from Ofsted, the inspector witnessed a maths lesson where the children were motivated to learn about subtraction by pretending that it is a magic formula created by Harry Potter.

Pupils were not allowed to answer questions without first saying a spell - "numerus subtracticus", which they devised themselves.

The official report describes achievement at the school as "outstanding".

"Pupils enter the school with standards well below average. Over the last three years, standards and achievement have improved greatly and were above average in Key Stage 2 tests in 2006," it says.

"Pupils are enthusiastic about their work in mathematics and particularly enjoy practical tasks and those that allow them to investigate mathematics. Some pupils said they enjoyed calculations because they knew what they were doing and they liked getting things right.

"They commented that mathematics is fun because they are always challenged and their teachers link it to the work they are doing in other subjects. Lessons observed were taught through the topic being covered in literacy. For example, subtraction was seen as a spell by 'Harry Potter'."


Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

MORE FROM Farhad Manjoo

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