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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all