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Making mathematics accessible to all Do you know what an arithmetic mean is? Or a polygon? On average, fewer than 30% of students across OECD countries understand the concept of an arithmetic mean, while less than 50% are comfortable with elementary geometrical shapes known as polygons. Yet with numeracy skills needed more than ever in the work place, today’s students should be able to compute, engage in logical reasoning and use mathematics to tackle novel problems. However, only a minority of 15-year-old students in most countries grasp and can work with core mathematical concepts. To what extent

can teachers and schools break this pattern? Equations and Inequality: Making Mathematics Accessible to All suggests that one way forward is to ensure that all students spend more quality or “engaged” time learning core mathematics concepts and solving challenging mathematics tasks. According to the report, based on results from PISA 2012, education systems have done well in providing equitable access to the quantity of mathematics education, but differences in quality remain. While well-off students are taught to think like mathematicians, disadvantaged pupils tend to be exposed to simple facts and figures only.

different study programmes, that have larger percentages of students in selective schools, and that transfer less-able students to other schools. Over 95% of students in Australia, Ireland, Israel and the UK attend schools where students are grouped by ability for mathematics classes. Policy makers could develop more ambitious and coherent mathematics standards that cover core mathematical ideas in depth, the report suggests. Another path would be to reduce tracking and stratification among schools. Teachers could also help by replacing routine tasks with challenging problems, support positive attitudes towards mathematics and offer tailored support to struggling students.

The relationship between content and socio-economic profiles is even stronger in countries that track students early into

OECD (2016), Equations and Inequalities: Making Mathematics Accessible to All, OECD Publishing Visit www.oecd.org/pisa and www.oecd.org/education

progress has been achieved over the last decade.

water governance on three fronts: policies, people and places. On the policies front, favouring inter-sectorial action is the key to efficient response to water crises. The German city of Cologne, for instance, co-ordinates water and spatial planning for new building areas to prevent flood damages due to heavy rainfalls. Technology also helps, and the report describes how it is used to display water quality and quantity data in Marseille, which citizens can consult. Communication campaigns such as “Max 100” in Copenhagen also raise public awareness and helped generate water savings as well.

Urban water Too much, too little, too polluted: these are three water risks facing many urban areas. By 2050, worldwide water demand will increase by 55%. This will mean fierce competition across different water users–farmers, industries, households, etc. Whether containing flooding in Paris, drought in San Francisco or groundwater contamination in Mexico City, cities everywhere are asking how to anticipate, avoid and overcome future water crises. Water Governance in Cities analyses the weakness of urban water governance systems. Building on a survey of 48 cities, the report finds that significant

Among cities surveyed, the average share of wastewater treated was 90% in 2012 compared to 82% in 1990, while per capita domestic water consumption decreased by 20% between 2000 and 2012. However, social and territorial inequalities in access to water services remain high in some urban areas: the lowest access rates to sanitation services are reported in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte–75%–and Veracruz in Mexico–79%. Although 75% of cities identify water pollution as a challenge, more than 90% cite ageing or a lack of infrastructure and support as the main challenge. This is a capacity issue: 65% of cities surveyed decried a lack of staff and managerial competencies as a challenge.

OECD (2016), Water Governance in Cities, OECD Studies on Water, OECD Publishing

Water Governance in Cities showcases best practices to foster good urban

OECD Observer No 308 Q4 2016

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OECD Observer No 308 Q4 2016  
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