So are you good at maths?
There was an interesting article in The Guardian on why we need Maths and should be more encouraging about it in the UK. It reminded me of the many many times friends have said to me, “What’s the point of maths? Have you ever used the stuff you learned in real life?”
The answer has to be yes. I don’t know about you but I find myself using maths all the time from working out whether a supermarket deal is really a ‘deal’ to checking that my bills have been calculated correctly (often not).
However, it doesn’t surprise me that government figures released last week found 49% of the UK working age population have numeracy levels of an 11 year old. When I was at school literacy was pushed and no one dared say it didn’t matter. Plus I was lucky enough to have a fantastic maths teacher who taught the subject in an interesting and fun way. Yet lots of my friends bailed out of the subject as fast as they could with a shrug that they weren’t ‘mathematically minded’, something that their parents agreed with. As a result I have friends now in their late 30s and early 40s who struggle with all things financial and one or two who find it nearly impossible to deal with numbers at all.
And while I have very rarely (if at all) used trigonometry in real life, but I have use many of the problem solving techniques that I was taught in maths and as a result I have confidence in knowing I can do basic maths well. For instance I am not sure I would have gone into business myself if I hadn’t been able to understand accounts, or had the nerve to battle with O2 over my phone-bill and get a substantial amount back if I wasn’t confident with numbers.
Which is why I think maths does matter, as The Guardian piece so wisely says, “had we not been a mathematically skilled workforce in the past, we might not have the computers, internet and mobile phones we take for granted today.”
All of which means we all need to do something about numeracy rates in the UK. I think aside from being more enthusiastic about maths in general, as parents I think we need to let our children know that to become good at maths takes effort. It’s very rare to find someone who is a natural, so watching our kids struggle with it doesn’t mean they don’t have the ‘maths gene’ but simply that numeracy is something that takes hard work.
But what do think? How can we help our kids to be good at maths. Let me know.