QUESTION 5: maths for life
One of the fascinating aspects of Cambridge Mathematics is that I receive emails from all over the world. A particularly detailed one arrived recently from David Wells, author and former maths teacher, who has raised issues but also offered solutions to some thorny questions. One of his very first comments is a response to something I wrote in the Cambridge Mathematics Manifesto “We believe that the study of mathematics is worthwhile for its own sake and as a key form of intellectual development. It is critical for the understanding of many other subjects and essential for functioning within modern society”. David agrees with this but takes issue with the last phrase. He writes:
“…much of the mathematics taught in schools today is not essential for the vast majority of citizens for functioning within modern society. A majority of pupils as adults will never need to use the algebra they learn in school and they will never again use trigonometry to solve a triangle. Nor does statistics, for example, taken at GCSE or A Level to allow pupils to solve most everyday problems of a probabilistic or statistical nature: the claim that it does so is straight forward nonsense.”
This made me think. The maths curricula of most High Performing Jurisdictions have a lot in common and most have changed very little in the past 50 or so years. Is it possible to start to design a framework from a different place, by considering what maths is really necessary for functioning in society? What should be included? And by working up/down from there would the end product look radically different?
As ever your comments will be welcome, to this, or any previous question.