Blair picks Vorderman to head maths campaign

CAROL VORDERMAN, Britain's highest paid female television presenter, has been personally recruited by the Prime Minister to spearhead a campaign to raise standards in maths.

The co-presenter of maths quiz show Countdown and mental arithmetic whizz is to be the "face" of the year of mathematics - which begins in 2000. Mr Blair will announce his coup on Tuesday.

Ms Vorderman, a Cambridge engineering graduate, has been recruited to make maths more user-friendly. But her appointment seems set to raise accusations of a conflict of interest because of her association with the Tokyo-based Kumon Institute of Education, a private company with a worldwide network.

The fee-charging Institute provides after-school maths tuition employing traditional rote-learning methods. Millions of parents have enthused about its methods, but maths teachers have been more critical, claiming it stifles understanding.

Ms Vorderman's six-year old daughter Katie attends Kumon classes. The presenter also appears on a publicity leaflet for the Institute.

The Government is almost certain to be accused of identifying itself with the Kumon Institute, providing it with priceless free advertising.

As part of her government job, Ms Vorderman will encourage parents to brush up their times tables with puzzles and engaging maths quizzes, while children under eight will be banned from using calculators at school. The drive will also target those without basic adding and subtracting skills so that they can feel confident about counting change in shops and checking that their telephone bills are correct.

Ms Vorderman, who has an IQ of 157 and is a member of Mensa, has held meetings with the Prime Minister over the past months about fronting the project. She is a keen proponent of mental arithmetic, and produces maths videos for children.

The television star, who used to present Tomorrow's World, recently signed a pounds 5m contract with Channel Four to co-present Countdown,where she solves mental arithmetic puzzles. The quiz show, which has 4 million viewers a day, was recently embroiled in controversy when the political columnist Matthew Parris revealed that guests receive help from backstage through an earpiece.

Ms Vorderman, dubbed "telly brainbox" by the tabloids, does all the sums herself and has a 90 per cent success rate. But when she was recently caught out by a difficult sum on Countdown, her mistake hit the headlines. She failed to calculate 959 using 75,2,9,1,10 and 4.

Ms Vorderman, who earns more than Cilla Black and Judy Finnigan of This Morning, attributes her maths skills to good mental arithmetic training at primary school.

The Government wants to give the maths initiative a popular face. The cast of the soapopera Brookside helped endorse the year of reading and the soap has run a storyline about literacy recently.

The Government intends to put around pounds 20m into Maths Year 2000 which will involve a new framework in schools for teaching maths.

The year is to mirror the Year of Reading which has led to big improvements in exam results where the scheme has been piloted.

Last year the Prime Minister appeared on the radio to endorse the year of reading, and spoke of how he read to his own children. But his ministers have been caught out in the past by their inability to do sums.

Stephen Byers, now the Trade and Industry Secretary, appeared on Radio Five Live when he was Education Minister and incorrectly said that 8 x 7 was 54. Later the same day, Education Secretary David Blunkett was asked what 9 x 8 was at a press conference. He correctly answered 72 - after a brief hesitation. Ministers are likely to be told to brush up their times tables to avoid an embarrassing repeat of the Byers gaffe.

On Tuesday the Prime Minister will launch the maths year with Carol Vorderman, David Blunkett and assorted educationalists. They will try to stress that boasting about being bad at maths is unhelpful to young people at school. The Prime Minister is expected to say that too many people are quick to dismiss the need to learn basic maths skills.

He will add that with the national year of reading already engaging schools, parents and business in a drive to improve the nation's literacy, daily maths and reading lessons in primary schools with support of the whole community, are needed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before