Poll

I know that this has been talked about a lot in the media, but would like to know what people think about this, especially as we are becoming increasingly a data-driven society.

Is it time that school league tables reflected the number of students who failed to pass GCSE Maths? What should and indeed can we do to break the anti-maths culture?

Is it time that school league tables reflected the number of students who failed to pass GCSE Maths? What should and indeed can we do to break the anti-maths culture?

(edited 2 months ago)

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Original post by Kinga88

I know that this has been talked about a lot in the media, but would like to know what people think about this, especially as we are becoming increasingly a data-driven society.

As a maths enthusiast (and a student of mathematical subjects at A Level), I hate to say it but you shouldn't make A Level Maths compulsory.

A Level Maths is a required subject for a number of subjects (as well as being the most required subject for degrees and professional qualifications):

•

Physics

•

Engineering

•

Finance, financial mathematics/engineering, and actuarial science

•

Economics

•

Maths

•

Data science and analytics

•

Computer science and software engineering

Amongst the A Level subjects, it's one of the most respected, as well as one of the more academic.

Post university (or even post-16), you don't really use that much maths unless you're in the above fields doing very theoretical mathematics (even then you don't really need to take out a pen and pad to do any hard calculations most of the time since a lot of things are done by computer). For most jobs in most industries, you can generally get by knowing KS2 level maths. Even to this day, I struggle to find anything that requires extensive knowledge in calculus, trigonometry, or sequences.

Don't get me wrong, stats and maths can make a huge impact on organisations, practicing maths can improve cognition and problem solving skills, and the application of them can be widespread. However, unless you're working in those specific roles (which are extremely difficult to get in the first place), you usually won't even get to use that much maths at all.

The other thing about maths is that usually it's taught in a theoretical manner. One of the main reason why maths is so valued is because of the practical applications that it has, and that really hasn't be emphasised enough in education. (If you don't know how to apply the material, it's not that helpful knowing it.) Should maths be made compulsory above GCSE, I would say it needs to be taught in a way where the application of the maths is the focus of the teaching (i.e. make the problem the focus and the math tools the approach), as opposed to the maths the focus and the problems the peripheral focus/side note.

In terms of accounting and finance; it's an essential skill that I think most people should know. However, even the maths used here barely goes above GCSE for what is required throughout someone's lifetime (it's mostly arithmetic in practical situations). I would recommend schools to have this taught as part of their curriculum if they haven't already, since knowing basic maths alone won't be anywhere close to enough for the average maths student to understand the basics of accounting or finance (I heard of stories of how a graduate in aerospace engineering/rocket science struggled with some of the maths in finance degrees, or how a graduate in chemistry would struggle to pass basic levels of an accounting qualification).

In terms of how society is being data driven, a lot of the stats mentioned tend to be relatively straightforward and a lot of the calculations can be done via computer. If AI becomes as prominent as it is said to be, the AI can be used to interpret the data and remove the need for the understanding of the stats by the general population (not that stats that are commonly referenced in public sources of information are that complicated to begin with).

Original post by Gazpacho.

Can you imagine what a shitshow it would be trying to teach integration to kids who struggle with basic numeracy.

I agree. Thinking about the GCSE results that came out yesterday. It amazes me the number of people who fail to get any grade at GCSE Maths, as often the schools/educational institutions fail to provide resources to help those struggling. One of the reasons that there is talk about maths being studies to 18 is to help correct this situation. I personally think that school league tables should be ranked according to GCSE Maths and English pass rates, as it will unhide a problem that is swept under the carpet by educational establishments. It is very different in Singapore.

I met someone during an open day I attended at Imperial who said that they struggled with Maths at one school, but moved to another school where Maths taught in a fun way, and everyone there did well. She was studying EEE at Imperial. I think this also shows that too many teachers hide behind teaching the basics ie the curriculum rather than how incredibly useful maths can be. Her Maths teacher during most lessons talked about the maths of Football and other sports, maths (and physics) of Rollercoasters, and the importance of maths, especially probability and statistics to Amazon and search engines. Students at her school were also tasked with coming up with Maths joke of the week too!

I don't think so. Not everyone likes maths, not everyone's good at it, and not everyone needs it. A-Level is well past the point of actually needing maths as a basic life skill. What would be the point in forcing people to study it who don't want to be there?

Plus there's a more fundamental point here: School itself isn't even compulsory after 16 years old. So it doesn't make sense to make an A-Level compulsory. Not unless we're raising the legal age at which you can leave school (which I think would be a bad idea in itself).

I think it's more important to try and get people actually interested in maths, improve the way it's taught, educate people on how useful and versatile it is in terms of careers, and try to increase the number of students that way.

Plus there's a more fundamental point here: School itself isn't even compulsory after 16 years old. So it doesn't make sense to make an A-Level compulsory. Not unless we're raising the legal age at which you can leave school (which I think would be a bad idea in itself).

I think it's more important to try and get people actually interested in maths, improve the way it's taught, educate people on how useful and versatile it is in terms of careers, and try to increase the number of students that way.

Moved to educational debate and no it should not be mandatory unless GCSEs were to get scrapped and the legal school-leaving age remains to be 18 years old.

(edited 3 months ago)

Original post by tazarooni89

I don't think so. Not everyone likes maths, not everyone's good at it, and not everyone needs it. A-Level is well past the point of actually needing maths as a basic life skill. What would be the point in forcing people to study it who don't want to be there?

Plus there's a more fundamental point here: School itself isn't even compulsory after 16 years old. So it doesn't make sense to make an A-Level compulsory. Not unless we're raising the legal age at which you can leave school (which I think would be a bad idea in itself).

I think it's more important to try and get people actually interested in maths, improve the way it's taught, educate people on how useful and versatile it is in terms of careers, and try to increase the number of students that way.

Plus there's a more fundamental point here: School itself isn't even compulsory after 16 years old. So it doesn't make sense to make an A-Level compulsory. Not unless we're raising the legal age at which you can leave school (which I think would be a bad idea in itself).

I think it's more important to try and get people actually interested in maths, improve the way it's taught, educate people on how useful and versatile it is in terms of careers, and try to increase the number of students that way.

I agree with this.

I don't think a level stats/maths should be compulsory (as someone who absolutely loves maths).

One of my reasons is that the subject teaches many different concepts and theories, but they aren't modernised/taught in a modern way to successfully equip students with the skills needed for a technology-driven and progressive world. And because of this, many students feel maths doesn't have any relevance in this world, which I feel isn't true. Moreover, a lot of these concepts/theories (at least at gcse level) aren't really connected with eachother, which means that although maths builds up on a foundation knowledge, the individual concepts are laid out as stand-alone concepts rather than being laid out in connection to real-life concepts.

I also think that the teaching of maths should be better adapted to individual learning styles from an early age, especially primary school/early secondary which is an important time for cognitive development. For example, being able to use maths concepts in everyday activities like making crafts or through actually being active can help encourage enthusiasm in the subject. I've seen that in relation to other subjects at primary/early secondary, maths seems to be the one that is hugely theoretical and doesn't really give room for creativity - like in english there's creative writing, in science there are experiments and in geography you get to learn about real life issues that affect us. If maths was taught in a more engaging way, people might enjoy it more and develop a love for it rather than being stressed with not understanding it.

But there will always be students who dislike maths and that's fine. I think that by the time students finish gcses they will have a better understanding of which subjects they enjoy/don't enjoy and which subjects they want to pursue and it's best to let them do that and figure out what they want to do.

One of my reasons is that the subject teaches many different concepts and theories, but they aren't modernised/taught in a modern way to successfully equip students with the skills needed for a technology-driven and progressive world. And because of this, many students feel maths doesn't have any relevance in this world, which I feel isn't true. Moreover, a lot of these concepts/theories (at least at gcse level) aren't really connected with eachother, which means that although maths builds up on a foundation knowledge, the individual concepts are laid out as stand-alone concepts rather than being laid out in connection to real-life concepts.

I also think that the teaching of maths should be better adapted to individual learning styles from an early age, especially primary school/early secondary which is an important time for cognitive development. For example, being able to use maths concepts in everyday activities like making crafts or through actually being active can help encourage enthusiasm in the subject. I've seen that in relation to other subjects at primary/early secondary, maths seems to be the one that is hugely theoretical and doesn't really give room for creativity - like in english there's creative writing, in science there are experiments and in geography you get to learn about real life issues that affect us. If maths was taught in a more engaging way, people might enjoy it more and develop a love for it rather than being stressed with not understanding it.

But there will always be students who dislike maths and that's fine. I think that by the time students finish gcses they will have a better understanding of which subjects they enjoy/don't enjoy and which subjects they want to pursue and it's best to let them do that and figure out what they want to do.

Original post by Kinga88

I know that this has been talked about a lot in the media, but would like to know what people think about this, especially as we are becoming increasingly a data-driven society.

Is it time that school league tables reflected the number of students who failed to pass GCSE Maths? What should and indeed can we do to break the anti-maths culture?

Is it time that school league tables reflected the number of students who failed to pass GCSE Maths? What should and indeed can we do to break the anti-maths culture?

No, it should not be compulsory for a-level (or equivalent).

Not everyone is good at maths (different people are good at different things). Forcing someone who is naturally not very good at maths to do maths a-level would be a disaster. It would be a waste of their time and the teachers time. The time could be better spent in the students doing other subjects/courses instead that they are better at/more interested in. And the teachers time could be better spent teaching students who actually want to be there.

Not everyone needs maths either. If you are wanting to go into certain career areas, such as accounting, finance, engineering, something science related, medicine etc etc then maths is useful (required for certain courses). But for other career areas it is not needed. So there is no need for the student to do it.

A-Level maths shouldn't be, but some sort of "everyday maths" should be. The numerical skills of much of the public are terrible so teaching them more skills and recapping those they already know in the context of everyday life when they are older, so closer to actually having to use these skills, is vital.

Last time Rishi suggested making maths compulsory, everyone jumped up and complained because they thought it was A-Level maths he was making compulsory, however, he never said that.

However, the big issue with this plan is the lack of funding and resources schools have, as well as the lack of maths teachers. This will have to be sorted out before any maths is made compulsory up to 18.

Last time Rishi suggested making maths compulsory, everyone jumped up and complained because they thought it was A-Level maths he was making compulsory, however, he never said that.

However, the big issue with this plan is the lack of funding and resources schools have, as well as the lack of maths teachers. This will have to be sorted out before any maths is made compulsory up to 18.

All I'll say is that the UK as a country is really bad at maths. I think the problem is that the way maths is taught in schools seems to vague and useless. If maths was taught as if it was actually applicable to day to day life or later life, people would actually care about maths, if you get what I mean.

Original post by Iced_Tea

All I'll say is that the UK as a country is really bad at maths. I think the problem is that the way maths is taught in schools seems to vague and useless. If maths was taught as if it was actually applicable to day to day life or later life, people would actually care about maths, if you get what I mean.

A lot of maths is taught in this way, it's just children and teenages are young so don't use it for ages.

Original post by Iced_Tea

All I'll say is that the UK as a country is really bad at maths. I think the problem is that the way maths is taught in schools seems to vague and useless. If maths was taught as if it was actually applicable to day to day life or later life, people would actually care about maths, if you get what I mean.

What do you mean by 'applicable to day to day life'?

Is the failure of people to see how maths applies to their lives not a failure of what they are taught, but their, and their families failure to understand what may be very relevant?

Original post by ajj2000

What do you mean by 'applicable to day to day life'?

Is the failure of people to see how maths applies to their lives not a failure of what they are taught, but their, and their families failure to understand what may be very relevant?

Is the failure of people to see how maths applies to their lives not a failure of what they are taught, but their, and their families failure to understand what may be very relevant?

What I mean is, the way schools teach maths is that it doesn't seem relevant to their lives, people think things like, "when am I ever going to use the quadratic formula in the real world", which means people don't really try in maths and why the UK is not very good at maths.

Original post by Iced_Tea

What I mean is, the way schools teach maths is that it doesn't seem relevant to their lives, people think things like, "when am I ever going to use the quadratic formula in the real world", which means people don't really try in maths and why the UK is not very good at maths.

Most kids will use that as an excuse just to not do any work. If a teacher then says "it is used in xyz", they'll come up with some other reason not to try, such as "well I don't want to be xyz".

It doesn't mean the way maths is taught is bad, and it doesn't mean that the topics aren't actually relevant to people's lives.

(edited 2 months ago)

Original post by Iced_Tea

What I mean is, the way schools teach maths is that it doesn't seem relevant to their lives, people think things like, "when am I ever going to use the quadratic formula in the real world", which means people don't really try in maths and why the UK is not very good at maths.

People also make soft excuses about languages, history and a load of other things.

Do you think its a cultural failure that the community around them don't stress the value of maths (and other subjects)? Or the long term effects of poor levels of education turning into a multi-generational problem?

Original post by ajj2000

People also make soft excuses about languages, history and a load of other things.

Do you think its a cultural failure that the community around them don't stress the value of maths (and other subjects)? Or the long term effects of poor levels of education turning into a multi-generational problem?

Do you think its a cultural failure that the community around them don't stress the value of maths (and other subjects)? Or the long term effects of poor levels of education turning into a multi-generational problem?

I guess it is a long term effect of poor levels of education turning into a multi-generational problem, but I couldn't tell you anything exactly, I'm not a sociologist.

Original post by Iced_Tea

What I mean is, the way schools teach maths is that it doesn't seem relevant to their lives, people think things like, "when am I ever going to use the quadratic formula in the real world", which means people don't really try in maths and why the UK is not very good at maths.

Maths that is relevant to most people’s lives does not go beyond basic numeracy, fractions, percentages, etc. Maths is about far more than that and if a kid can not hack a quadratic equation, the likes an A level will be completely beyond them.

We need to teach children to think in the abstract, not work out how many apples Johnny has.

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