Friday, 10 February 2012

We must Improve mathematics education in England

By Luke Kristopher Davis



A recent study by the Royal Society of Arts concluded that only 15% of young people continue to study mathematics past GCSE level. In Japan this figure is 85% and in other countries such as New Zealand it is 47%  and in South Korea it is 57%. It seems as though the UK (not just England as the UK averaged 13-14%) is slacking in one of the most important areas of education.

It is almost certain that a significant percentage of young people will not want to continue a full academic education of mathematics up to university standard, but it is necessary that all young people study a degree of maths until aged 18. This proposed spectrum of mathematical education may disturb those of you who love and cherish pure mathematics. Those young people who want to venture out into vocational or non-academic careers must leave with some functional ability with computation and understanding of maths.
Susan Anderson, CBI Director for Education & Skills policy, said: 
"Maths is a subject of critical importance, and this report (By Taskforce and Carol Vorderman) rightly highlights that there needs to be more focus on teaching 'useful maths' that is relevant for future employment and day-to-day life." 
"Businesses are most concerned about basic levels of numeracy and it's alarming that more than one in five 16-19 year olds are considered functionally innumerate.
Susan also encourages the idea that students should prolong their education in mathematics:

"To help address this problem, all young people should continue to study some form of maths until the age of 18. Pupils with good maths ability should continue to study the full curriculum, but all pupils, regardless of ability, should go on to study a functional numeracy qualification."
I think this is a 'win-win' idea as it would save costs for businesses (private and public) on training new employees who do not have sufficient numerical ability. Also, depending on the standard and content of this new curriculum, the general financial awareness of the population will increase if we assume a correlation between financial competence and mathematical ability.

The outcomes of the CBI report which was out last August and the recent RSA study have slightly hit me.
Mathematics to me is a beautiful tool to help us humans describe and explain the world, sometimes mathematics describes the world so well you think that mathematics is actually the basis of the world.

The fact that a great number of young people (and of course older generations) may not realize how powerful and beautiful mathematics is, reflects the lack of depth, wonder and rigor that exists in our mathematics education.

In the economist 'The World in 2012' there are a few pages which contain statistical economic information about different countries. Our GDP growth  2011-2012 is 0.7%  which is 3.142857 smaller than Japans GDP growth (2.2%). China, which is also a nation keen on mathematics, has a huge GDP growth of 8.2%.

These countries are also expanding and growing scientifically, which we know necessitates a growth in mathematical education (in order to perform science at its best).

So mathematics will help us grow economically by saving businesses money spent on mathematical training, improving scientific research and technological growth, decreasing unemployment as major fields require people with mathematical competency. I also think that mathematics if its education becomes much more engaging, rigorous and playful will enrich the intellectual capacities in our population, which of course is a good thing.

Here is a video highlighting why mathematics is addictive, playful, beautiful and of course extremely useful:



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