Heroes – Peter Reynolds

Peter Reynolds played quite a rôle in my career.  He invited me to join the Mathematical Association’s Diploma Board, he gave me my first speaking engagement outside my own county, and he was the first to suggest I might have something to offer schools in general rather than just my own.  One day a letter arrived: “Dear Alan – have you ever thought of becoming an advisory teacher?  I think you’d be excellent in that rôle. Come along for interview ….”

(I turned up, clutching my hand-written letter – and found seven others all with their individual letters!  So in fact I never got to work in Peter’s team, but it was this experience that started me thinking and a couple of years later I did make the AT step in my own authority.)

Peter never sought a high profile, but he contributed enormously to mathematical education.  Much of his work was done for the Mathematical Association ( http://www.m-a.org.uk ); he was the first editor of Mathematics In School, and the Diploma Board was a leading influence in the development of maths teachers.  He also served on the Cockcroft committee which resulted in the hugely influential report “Mathematics Counts”.

I suspect that his image was responsible for much of Peter’s effectiveness.  He was always well turned-out, and quietly well-spoken.  He looked in fact like the typical grammar school teacher of my own schooldays, and was comfortable with officials and committee members.  They looked at Peter and saw someone they could work with and who wouldn’t rock the boat.  What they didn’t realise until it was too late is just how deceptive that image was.

Peter Reynolds 1

Peter was in fact a deeply subversive individual and it was his influence that saw Suffolk as a hot-bed of curriculum development in mathematics.  He assembled a team (sadly not including myself) of iconoclasts.  Not all of them shared his impeccable dress sense, but they were all committed to innovation, most particularly in the contribution the electronic calculator could play in the development of children’s understanding on numbers.  Peter’s team played a large part in Hilary Shuard’s pioneering CAN Project that we in nearby Hertfordshire followed with interest.

Peter was another who died much too early, in 2000 aged 68.  Not long before,  we’d worked together again on an MA group, and on the last occasion we found we were both planning to look in at Mole Jazz.  Mole Jazz was at Kings Cross and even in that somewhat dilapidated area was a bit of an eyesore.  I bet not one of those committee members who imagined Peter was one of themselves had ever heard of it.

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