Leading article: How to calculate the damage from the maths deficit

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The Independent Online

A central recommendation of a House of Lords report into the state of science and technology is that maths should be compulsory for all pupils, even after the age of 16. And quite right, too. It is not only that the UK has a shortage of mathematicians, but that those wanting to study science or engineering can find their prospects limited by their lack of maths. Some universities now offer remedial classes.

One culprit is the A-level system in England and Wales that requires such early specialisation; on the Continent, maths is compulsory for most pupils until they leave school. But requiring everyone to spend another two years studying maths will improve general standards of awareness only if teaching in the years until 16 improves. Otherwise a consequence of more obligatory maths will be more disaffected pupils facing a subject they do not understand. By 16-plus much of the damage has been done.