The problems created by Sunak’s math lessons Mathematics
Re your article (Rishi Sunak to propose maths for all pupils up to age 18, 3 January), as somebody with a BA and MA in economics (and Ofsted’s most recent national lead Her Majesty’s inspector for economics, business and enterprise), I am all in favor of giving everyone enough numeracy to navigate the economy and see through political nonsense, but extending the policy of forcing kids to do subjects they hate at 14-16 to 16-18 may not swing my vote.
Some critics have pointed to the shortage of maths teachers. Some have pointed out that the policy is not about everyone doing A-level maths, while others have then asked what is the point for those who have already passed GCSE maths? It is an interesting question as not much attention seems to have been given to the fact that maths to 18 or until you pass GCSE is already compulsory, based on the educational philosophy of Thomas H Palmer’s Teacher’s Manual from 1840 (If at first you don’ t succeed, try, try and try again) as opposed to Einstein’s view that to keep doing the same thing expecting different results is madness.
Rishi Sunak’s plan for pupils to continue maths until 18 offers an ideal opportunity for them to study critical numeracy. May I suggest a few exam questions: Why do prices still rise when the rate of inflation comes down? At times of dire emergency, what is a reasonable rate of profit on duff PPE? Express as a percentage of 40 the difference between how many hospitals there were in 2019 and how many there are now. No doubt readers can suggest more.
My Scottish education required me to take maths and arithmetic. The latter was by far the most useful for adult life. I’ve never needed to calculate a derivative, but I’ve often had to work out how many rolls of wallpaper I need, or multiply recipe quantities by 0.75 because I only have three eggs. Or indeed, work out what percentage of the electorate voted for Rishi Sunak to be prime minister. As so often, the Scots take the sensible approach.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Tinkering piecemeal with the school curriculum to suit the personal prejudices of politicians is the last desperate throw of a failed government that has lost its way and has no real idea about anything. Michael Gove did enough destructive tinkering during his disastrous time in education to last a generation. Labor should reject it outright, and instead promise the root and branch reform of the 14-18 curriculum that is decades overdue.
Dr. Charles Smith
What happens to those of us who have dyscalculia? As a child l would spend the night before a maths exam in terror. To me, it was a foreign language and still is. I could read it, but not understand it. Every person should be treated as an individual with their own abilities, personality and interests. That’s what makes the world go round.
I would like to see how Rishi Sunak calculated the number of maths teachers required to deliver lessons to all under-18s and if he has found a magic money tree to pay the salaries that would be required to recruit and retain these teachers.
Skipton, North Yorkshire