Sunak has proposed that Maths should be taught to 18. I think this ambition i.e. of better equipping people to understand data and draw conclusions needs redesign earlier in the curriculum and would be informed by a study in the UK’s failure to adopt the Baccalaureate. Some say that they’ll need more [and better paid] teachers, which they seem unwilling to fund. I think this is just revisiting failed reforms of the last half century. I seem to remember some nonsense in the 70’s about scientists in the Civil Service, and after a bit of looking around came upon this review of the Fulton Report; it made little difference.

A common question has been how much have I used my A level and 1st year graduate statistics education. The answer is a bit. Linear & Quadratic correlation has been useful a couple of times, queuing theory at least once, and I had to mug up some hypothesis testing for that one project I did using 6 sigma. More than most maybe. Although at least once, my then manager’s own poor statistical education led to him putting it in the bin, because he didn’t have the confidence to sell the results.

Simon Pegg on twitter is more succinct and sweary in his defence of the need for arts.

When doing the 6-sigma project I discovered that many of the distribution tables needed to perform the statistical tests were encapsulated in costly software. I amused myself by bringing in my uni. text book, which had the distributions printed but which was older than many of my colleagues. They had remained useful, the tables that is, and I still have the book on my book shelf.

For my foreign audience, in the UK, students from 16-18 study 3-5 subjects often reducing their subjects studied at the end of the 1st year. There isn’t really room to push Maths into that time table if a student has made otherwise sensible contiguous choices. This is supported imposed by the Universities who claim that early specialisation leads to our graduates being better qualified at the end of the first degree. I suspect that most US university academics would disagree, For my British readers, the early specialisation, at 16, is unusual, with other countries using other curriculum design techniques to provide a broad 16-18 education. Also the fact of a Prime Minster in the 21st Century educated at University in Greek and Latin must have been a source of amusement to the French graduates of the Ecole National d’Administration, an amusement enlarged by calling it Greats!

All this on the day when Starmer flags his second thoughts on Labour’s promise of abolishing student tuition fees.

Maths at 18
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One thought on “Maths at 18

  • 7th January 2023 at 12:41 pm

    I suppose I should add that I found “triangles of velocity” useful when taking my sailing licence exams.

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