i Editor's Letter: Getting to grips with this problem


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The Independent Online

'Be careful what you wish for' is one of life's more apposite sayings.

Thus, after i's second annual Twitter100 yesterday, it has proven hard to get off @stefanohat long enough to edit i. You will still find the full list over at independent.co.uk/2012twitter100.

I can't agree with readers who say Twitter is a 'complete waste of time'. You do not have to like something to recognise its growing influence. One should at least know the rudiments.

For Twitter, read Maths. Every time the subject comes up, I am reminded of the Channel 4 documentary series Educating Essex, in which the pupil Carrie asks in despair: 'What is Pi? Where did it come from?' Now, I'd like to think I am numerate (at least by journalists' standards). I am old enough to have learnt times tables by rote, but also have forgotten what Pi is, and where it came from.

I am not proud of this. All the more so, because the girls' homework is increasingly beyond the limits of my memory. 'How do you calculate the area of a rhomboid?' 'If y = 3x, what is x, when...?' I try to help, but better to fess up. They stop thinking daddy is Superman on their 11th birthday anyway. It does no help that Rhodri sits next to me, trying to stifle giggles as I squirm, basking smugly in his degree in engineering. He knows rhomboids.

But, as our cover story makes clear, it is not the area of rhomboids, or algebra that is at issue in Britain today, but basic arithmetic. We really have to rethink how we can make it more cool to excel at maths in schools, and not OK to give up on it, as so many do, just because it is deemed difficult. Those league tables do not help here, but it goes beyond league tables to how young people view themselves. It is vital for this country's long-term future that we really get to grips with this problem, before it is too late.

See you tomorrow for Saturday's i.