What do students think about even more maths?

What do students think about having to learn maths until they're 18?
23 May 2023


Maths on blackboard



One of the things we've talked a lot about this week is this whole question of increasing and improving maths literacy and taking people through with some association with maths until they're 18. The one thing we haven't said is, well, what do the students think? So have you looked at this or what sort of feedback do you get through NRICH?


Chris Smith put this question to Cambridge University mathematician Ems Lord...

Ems - The feedback varied. Some students, as you know, absolutely love maths and can't get enough of it, so they're very keen and enthusiastic, but there's others, let's face it, who've had bad experiences and are really not keen. So it's a mixed bag and I think it comes back to the way that we assess the subject and their experiences perhaps when they're first going to work. I talked to somebody whose partner runs an engineering firm the other day, and they were saying when they're interviewing, the students can walk in with their GCSE maths, but actually what they get them to do is some practical work. Check they can actually use a ruler and do basic skills because although they've got their GCSE the way it's marked, it doesn't mean you actually have all the basic skills. So employers still have to check. So I think there's that frustrating side that you've got a piece of paper, but it doesn't mean you can do the skill. Whereas if you've got a driving license, you wouldn't have been let loose on the road unless you had those basic competencies. So it's a little bit of frustration as well.

Chris - It's almost like an apprenticeship for Maths then. It's about not just having a bit of paper having been shown some techniques. It's knowing how to use them.

Ems - Exactly. It's not enough, just saying 'I can do some of these basic things.' It's being able to demonstrate it and use it in a real life context, and we haven't quite got that right. But luckily at the moment there's a lot of discussion about assessment. So perhaps this is a time where people are more receptive to maybe looking at different ways of doing things and hopefully move forward.


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