The maths curriculum needs to be reviewed and made more relevant, Christchurch principal Murray Edlin says.
Mr Edlin's comments follow research from Canterbury University which shows poor maths results in New Zealand school children are due to a dislike of the subject, rather than a lack of skill.
It also finds few students go on to study maths beyond the required number of National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) credits at secondary school.
Mr Edlin, principal of Banks Avenue School, said the maths curriculum was irrelevant, and he blamed the NCEA credit system.
"It's measuring those easy-to-measure things, such as being able to do a calculation. It is so much harder to be able to put a number or a measure against how a child solves a problem.
"They're much more abstract than being able to solve an equation."
Teaching problem solving would be far more relevant to students than teaching calculations, Mr Edlin said.