We’re Doomed

Evidence mounts that the UK education system is giving up on teaching maths to any reasonable level.

Firstly, there’s this story from yesterday. Schools are measured on the results they get. And as maths is hard, some people don’t do very well in maths exams. The solution seems to be to discourage pupils from taking maths exams – as if they don’t take them, then they can’t do badly in them. Far better that they spend their time working on easier subjects that they’ll do better in, which will improve the school’s scores.

An alternative might be to improve the level of maths teaching, but that doesn’t seem to have been considered.

And then today there’s this story comparing maths problems set in entrance exams for students applying to take chemistry degrees at universities in England and China. The Chinese problem is something that would require me to spend some considerable time drawing diagrams and scratching my head. I solved the English problem in my head in seconds. And I’d expect most intelligent people to be able to do the same.

It looks like English schools are turning out mathematical morons. Where are all the decent maths teachers?


  1. I am reliably informed by someone who effectively has three maths A-levels and took the maths entry exam at Oxford that it was significantly harder than the “English University” paper given here. It’s interesting that the university in question isn’t named, but it was probably somewhere crap. Cambridge? :)

  2. I never got what the obsession was with Maths. And I was pretty good at it.My school used to tout it as being one of the most important subjects available – second only to English. But then you sit in class being taught how to add X and Y together, and at 16-17 years old its hard to work out how this will EVER be useful. I still have trouble listing jobs that could benefit from algebra.So why does the average person need to know what the COS SIN and TAN buttons on a calculator mean? I’m sure I learnt everything I’m likely to ever need in Maths prior to taking my GCSEs (when Maths was mandatory). Surely its in the best interests of everyone if the student takes something that they will find easier and may point them in the direction of a job they’ll be good at. Not take a subject because ‘traditionally’ its seen as important?

  3. Who needs maths when we don’t do engineering any more? Britain doesn’t make anything these days, we just sell each other insurance! We also do a good line in offering people loans, getting them into debt, then offering them another loan to get out of debt! Hmmm, maybe we don’t need to to teach maths so much as logic!I think maths needs to become a lot more relevant to the average modern job than the kind of stuff that I had to learn was. For example, I have never had to do anything involving trigonometry. I have, however, had to do loads of things where a knowledge of statistics would have been useful. I have never had to solve simultaneous or quadratic equations, and if i ever do then x=”I don’t give” and y=”a shit”. Many a time though I have had to do compound interest and other financial calculations. Perhaps most importantly, given that you can prove anything with statistics, and figures can be presented in very misleading ways, maths education should probably focus more on how to interpret numbers and see the story behind them, and how not to get bullshitted! Then people might see the value in it.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.