Does Maths prepare people well enough for the future?

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Poll: Does school Maths prepare people well enough for the future?
Yes, it gives everyone a good foundation for any future path (57)
30%
Somewhat, if your future involves maths/STEM (86)
45.26%
No, it doesn't teach enough practical life skills (44)
23.16%
Something else (tell us in the thread) (3)
1.58%
spectrum84
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#1
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#1
It's widely known that maths plays an important part in STEM courses, but is the maths we learn at school sufficient enough to allow us to thrive in future STEM jobs?

It can be argued that maths helps build problem solving skills, a core skill needed in many workplaces (not just STEM). Being able to tell the time is also a key maths skill .

But how well does maths prepare you for the world of work? What maths skills do you think are needed beyond school?

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Last edited by spectrum84; 1 month ago
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Smack
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#2
(Original post by spectrum84)
It's widely known that maths plays an important part in STEM courses, but is the maths we learn at school sufficient enough to allow us to thrive in future STEM jobs?

It can be argued that maths helps build problem solving skills, a core skill needed in many workplaces (not just STEM). Being able to tell the time is also a key maths skill .

But how well does maths prepare you for the world of work? What maths skills do you think are needed beyond school?

More curriculum conversations like this
This thread is one of a series of Curriculum Conversations happening on :tsr: in July. If you would like to receive notifications for more of these, click here and tick the box.
I think we need to distinguish between those who regularly use a fairly advanced level of mathematics as part of their jobs from people who seldom, if ever, do so. The former will typically have university degrees - or other qualifications - that should have covered maths to a relatively high level, so should either already have an understanding of the subject or be in a position to learn any additional material required. The later, however, may have struggled with maths and numeracy throughout education, and hence likely have different needs to the former group, more towards reinforcing the basics than ensuring an advanced topic that may be required for a certain application is included in the curriculum.

That said, speaking as someone who did a STEM degree, it covered way more maths than is typically needed for the job/career. I'm not sure if STEM degrees are actually lacking in necessary maths content.
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spectrum84
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(Original post by Smack)
I think we need to distinguish between those who regularly use a fairly advanced level of mathematics as part of their jobs from people who seldom, if ever, do so. The former will typically have university degrees - or other qualifications - that should have covered maths to a relatively high level, so should either already have an understanding of the subject or be in a position to learn any additional material required. The later, however, may have struggled with maths and numeracy throughout education, and hence likely have different needs to the former group, more towards reinforcing the basics than ensuring an advanced topic that may be required for a certain application is included in the curriculum.

That said, speaking as someone who did a STEM degree, it covered way more maths than is typically needed for the job/career. I'm not sure if STEM degrees are actually lacking in necessary maths content.
That is a good point, those who don't require maths in their jobs will probably feel studying it was pointless, especially if they found it difficult :yes:
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AliceKS
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i was always confused why mandatory maths gcse included pythagoras but not anything to do with taxes/payslips
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Muttley79
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(Original post by AliceKS)
i was always confused why mandatory maths gcse included pythagoras but not anything to do with taxes/payslips
Questions can include that sort of topic. This should be taught in Life skills.
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Muttley79
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#6
(Original post by spectrum84)
It's widely known that maths plays an important part in STEM courses, but is the maths we learn at school sufficient enough to allow us to thrive in future STEM jobs?

It can be argued that maths helps build problem solving skills, a core skill needed in many workplaces (not just STEM). Being able to tell the time is also a key maths skill .

But how well does maths prepare you for the world of work? What maths skills do you think are needed beyond school?

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Is 'preparing for the world of work' the job of a Maths GCSE? Surely it's more than that? Why learn anything if its all about future work?
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mnot
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#7
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#7
(Original post by spectrum84)
It's widely known that maths plays an important part in STEM courses, but is the maths we learn at school sufficient enough to allow us to thrive in future STEM jobs?

It can be argued that maths helps build problem solving skills, a core skill needed in many workplaces (not just STEM). Being able to tell the time is also a key maths skill .

But how well does maths prepare you for the world of work? What maths skills do you think are needed beyond school?

More curriculum conversations like this
This thread is one of a series of Curriculum Conversations happening on :tsr: in July. If you would like to receive notifications for more of these, click here and tick the box.
GCSE maths is pretty rudimentary, gives some core skills although a lot of it I would consider to be common sense. Further maths A-level is a great foundation which you can build on if you pursue an analytical career, although standard A-level maths will probably be sufficient (further just sets a better base).

I would say it gives you a good level of analytical capability. What perhaps is missing is in school is data applications & management particularly with complex algorithms &/or large data sets, its one thing understanding a core mathematical operation, it’s another apply it to a system. This isn’t essential to learn in school but I think it would help.
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Jpw1097
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#8
(Original post by AliceKS)
i was always confused why mandatory maths gcse included pythagoras but not anything to do with taxes/payslips
I really dislike this argument. As already said, this could be argued for any topic in any lesson.

GCSE maths can help you in all areas of everyday life. It's how I know that a 12" pizza is 78% bigger than a 9" pizza, for example
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Kallisto
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#9
Mathematics at schools is a good preparation for students who intend to work in a STEM or a job with mathematics as focus.
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spectrum84
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#10
(Original post by Muttley79)
Is 'preparing for the world of work' the job of a Maths GCSE? Surely it's more than that? Why learn anything if its all about future work?
So what do you think is the point of learning GCSE maths if you don't need it beyong high school?
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spectrum84
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#11
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(Original post by Kallisto)
Mathematics at schools is a good preparation for students who intend to work in a STEM or a job with mathematics as focus.
Is it useful for only those people?
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spectrum84
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#12
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#12
(Original post by Jpw1097)
I really dislike this argument. As already said, this could be argued for any topic in any lesson.

GCSE maths can help you in all areas of everyday life. It's how I know that a 12" pizza is 78% bigger than a 9" pizza, for example
That's a nice argument but why would you need to know that? Is it not just enough to know a 12" pizza is bigger than 9"? :curious:
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Muttley79
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#13
(Original post by spectrum84)
So what do you think is the point of learning GCSE maths if you don't need it beyong high school?
No-one can predict what knowledge they will use in their lifetime. Maths is about problem solving which is something we do everyday. It is based in understanding, interpreting, using and applying information in new contexts.

The actual topics have changed over time.
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black tea
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#14
The only maths I needed for my STEM degree was statistics tbh. In day-to-day life, all I need is basic arithmetics.
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AliceKS
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#15
(Original post by black tea)
The only maths I needed for my STEM degree was statistics tbh. In day-to-day life, all I need is basic arithmetics.
haven't BBC radio 4 started using 1 in 10 instead of 10% as it's easier for people to understand?
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themartinipolice
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I mean do any subjects really prepare you for life? Outside of ones that will be directly useful in your future career. People always say there's an element of usefulness in learning problem-solving skills, and the same goes for English and some other essay subjects, in learning how to be articulate, form arguments, analyse texts etc.

However having said that I'm not sure whether the study of a-levels has any massive impact on those skills? It's not an easily quantifiable thing, very vague, but I certainly don't 'feel' as though studying a-level maths has made me better at problem solving? Idk I'd be interested to see some research on it.

Ultimately though I think most subjects beyond GCSE serve little purpose beyond being a stepping stone to university. I was talking with my sister (third year uni) a few weeks ago whilst I was revising for my a-levels, she did the same a-levels (Bio, chem, maths) and was actually a bit surprised at how little she knew. She's now doing a completely unrelated degree (Law). Largely different skill-sets, albeit with some overlap. She doesnt feel like her a-levels helped her at all, but also that it's not difficult to adapt, so clearly she's not lacking in the 'skills' that an English a-level would've given her? Idk I'm rambling now haha
Last edited by themartinipolice; 1 month ago
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Jpw1097
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#17
(Original post by spectrum84)
That's a nice argument but why would you need to know that? Is it not just enough to know a 12" pizza is bigger than 9"? :curious:
No it is not sufficient to know it’s bigger. It gives you an idea of how cost effective it is.
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Kallisto
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#18
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#18
(Original post by spectrum84)
Is it useful for only those people?
People should be able to use simple mathematics skills in everyday life (percentage calculation, rule of three, trigonometry, fractions, etc.), but further mathematics (analysis, analytic geometry and further propability calculation) is, in my opinion, useful for students who think about a study in STEM or with a focus to mathematics.
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tazarooni89
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#19
Maths is, for obvious reasons, important for anyone in careers involving science, technology, engineering, economics etc.

But even otherwise, I think at least a basic understanding of maths and a grasp of the skills involved are important, because it's applicable so broadly. Knowing how to prove a theorem gives us the ability to structure logical arguments, to distinguish between valid and invalid reasoning, and to just generally be a more rational person in the things we believe and the opinions we form. An understanding of probability will be helpful in making all kinds of decisions that involve elements of risk, from starting a business to using choosing a method of contraception. People have to make personal financial decisions all the time e.g. whether to rent or buy a property, what kind of mortgage to go for etc. A lot of biases, prejudices, superstitions and misinformation that people have often come down to a poor understanding of statistics.

What we're taught at school at an early stage tends to be pure maths rather than applied maths, so it can be easy to fail to see where it's actually useful in real life (e.g. "when will I ever use the quadratic formula?"). But pure maths ultimately forms the foundation for all of the things described above.
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Blue_Cow
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Urgh. I really hate it when debates like this are framed around STEM jobs - especially when there are many unemployed STEM graduates out there + the many thousands in each year that have to go through a battery of psychometric testing/maths testing/assessment centres/interviews despite having this supposed golden ticket i.e. a STEM degree.

At the end of the day school/education is not purely vocational. Not everything you learn will be applicable to everyone's day-to-day work or life. Some of the vocational aspect you just need to learn by yourself and not by studying an academic qualification. Sometimes you just need to suck it up and learn the underlying theory/get some breadth before jumping into things that are slightly more applicable to actual work.

As Muttley said - we can't predict exactly the kind of skills/knowledge we need.
Last edited by Blue_Cow; 1 month ago
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