The BBC news website reported that UK students are being urged to drop mathematics because it’s too hard.
Apparently, the subject is considered ‘difficult’ and so students are not taking the subject in order to increase their overall A-level scores in order to get into university.
The interesting question is: why is this happening now? Has anything fundamentally changed in the type of mathematics being taught? When I went though high school (in NSW, Australia), I took 3 unit mathematics. for comparison, the entire four unit mathematics curriculum for HSC was taught in the first 1 – 2 months of my University level mathematics course.
Why is that comparison important? If the students dropping maths to get a higher score want to do a science based degree, then they’ll need to do University-level maths. So at some point, they’ll be faced with some ‘hard’ learning to do.
Mathematics is the most fundamental of the sciences. If you’re a reductionist (like me) , or even a soft reductionist, then you’ll know that physics, chemistry, computing and lots of biology reduces to mathematical equations describing natural phenomena.
If you don’t have a good understanding of maths, then how can you expect to have an understnading of the fundamentasl of your discipline.
Mathematics also underpins logic such as inference, deduction, induction, reasoning and critical thinking (these can eseentially be regarded as synonyms).
I think the most important thing for all educational institutions is to examine the passion for mathematics that the teachers themselves have (if they avoid maths, so will their students) and the content of the curriculum and pedagogical methods. there are numerous methods to improve the quality of learning for students. these techniques can improve the performance of students and nothing breeds success like success.
Mathematics (as well as language grammar) is essential for understanding the world around us. You just need to look at the quiz shows and pubs and venues with gaming to see how poor people are at understanding statistics and the odds of winning.
The next time your kids complain about maths, consider how important it is. consider how your own attitudes shape those of your children and take a look at the quality of teaching. As parents, we have considerable responsibility to ensure our children are well equipped – the jobs of the future rely more and more on information, critical reasoning and judgement. Mathematics is critical to develop these skills.