Letters: Why teach advanced maths to those who won't need it?

 

Share

There are two problems to do with maths education, it appears, and "experts" feel that these will be solved by making maths compulsory for everyone from ages 16 to 18 (report, 24 July).

One problem is that science and engineering students arrive at university without knowing the maths they will need for their disciplines.

The solution to this, obviously, is to teach more maths to science and engineering students, not to teach differential calculus to everyone else.

The other problem, we are told, is that many 16-year-olds still lack the level of numeracy required for citizenship in the modern world: they are "bewildered and bamboozled by numbers".To manage our lives and to avoid being bamboozled by the many organisations and authorities who would like to pull numerical wool over our eyes, we non-scientists actually need quite a limited range of mathematics.

Basic arithmetic, a little geometry, the ability to read graphs, some elementary statistics and a little probability theory will probably suffice. All of these things can, in principle, be learnt by 16.

And if we have failed to teach them to young people in the first 11 years of their schooling, the solution is to look critically at what happens over that period, not to add a further two useless years of the same.

Michael Swan

Didcot, Oxfordshire

IMF had answer to economic crisis in Nineties Asia

Your leading article ("Another blow to the Chancellor's strategy", 26 July) rightly states that "with so many economic indicators pointing different ways, the Chancellor must stick with Plan A for a while longer". The anti-austerity policy of the Opposition, as the East Asian experience of the 1990s amply demonstrates, is not the answer.

In 1998, during the depth of the Asian crisis, aggregate output (real GDP) in the Asean Five (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) plunged by 8.3 per cent, and the real GDP in South Korea contracted by 5.7 per cent.

The IMF, with its tough conditionality of bailouts and adjustment programmes, stepped in. Within a few years, the current-account deficits averaging 4 per cent of GDP in 1996 swung into average surpluses of 6.8 per cent of GDP in 1998-99. A similar transformation came in South Korea, where a 2.8 per cent current-account deficit in 1996-97 became an 8.6 per cent surplus in 1998-99, and the region never looked back.

The structure of the UK economy may be slightly different, but the East Asian experience shows that austerity, coupled with structural reforms, can and does work. But that depends on finding a delicate balance between short-term palliatives and a long-term cure.

Randhir Singh Bains

Gants Hill, Essex

Taxpayers foot grouse-shoot bill

Terence Blacker laments that "... a government, run by the privileged and the privately educated, deprives the vast majority of children of the chance to play organised sport at school is a matter of national shame" (20 July).

What about the major taxpayer support given to grouse-shooting through unlimited "agricultural" inheritance tax relief and the EU's "agricultural" subsidies paid on moorland which carries a token number of sheep?

The total supports to the grouse moor owner are worth a hefty £6,000 per participant per day of sport. If we are to be "all in this together", the Prime Minister must address this problem among his subsidised rich chums.

Aidan Harrison

Rothbury, Northumberland

'Wiggins effect' is good for Britain

Allan Ramsay (letters, 24 July) should be rejoicing in Bradley Wiggins's fantastic achievement and the positive effect it will have on cycling in this country.

Department for Transport statistics show reported deaths of cyclists fell 111 in 2010 to 107 in 2011. We should be looking forward. Things are improving. There are more cyclists out there than ever. There is a wealth of training opportunities available for all ages and abilities. Subsidised and often free training is available to children aged 10 and over through Bikeability Level 2.

There is a major problem with obesity. We should therefore be encouraging and supporting people to have a more active life-style. There is risk associated with most activities but with cycling the health benefits outweigh the risk.

Judith Billingham

Melksham, Wiltshire

Suddenly, the Brits all love a cyclist. The hypocrisy of the Great British Public is breathtaking. a public I constantly hear vilify cyclists as the devil incarnate, blaming them because they don't pay road tax, cycle on pavements and jump red lights.

As a car driver and pedestrian (I'd never cycle; too many mad, bad and dangerous drivers) I applaud anyone brave enough to cycle. Cyclists are loved only when you win something that people feel they can glory in.

Sara Starkey

Tonbridge, Kent

The magic of the Western Isles

Michael McCarthy's panegyric on south Harris (26 July) took me, and I am sure many others, back many years to childhood and fields full of wild flowers and birds. I hope the law of unintended consequences does not bring about an invasion of the Western Isles, where I was stationed, during the Second World War. Let us have at least a small part as nature intended.

Bill Fletcher

Cirencester, Gloucester

Entertainment?

Next time I read one of Joan Smith's occasional articles attacking football and its followers, I will remember that her idea of entertainment is to huddle in a toilet with like-minded girlies and jabber excitedly about clothes and lipstick (24 July). Most women I encounter have more cerebral interests.

Tim Matthews

Luton, Bedfordshire

Chancellor Cable

Lord Oakeshott is right about a new look at the economy (report, 26 July). In these perilous times for the British people we need a Chancellor with experience of the business world. Vince Cable has such experience. George Osborne does not. In the interests of the country, Mr Cable should now replace Mr Osborne as Chancellor. His appointment will not immedicately turn the economy from recession to growth but it will be a step in the right direction.

Valerie Crews

Beckenham, Kent

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Rohingya migrants in a boat adrift in the Andaman Sea last week  

Burma will regret shutting its eyes to the fate of the Rohingya boat people

Peter Popham
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor