Poor UK education standards

Yokel

LE
I do wonder if we undermine the idea that "basic maths is a core skill of being an adult" by requiring specialist teachers to teach it.

If it's something that every adult can and should be able to do (e.g. split a bill) then demonstrate by having every teacher do basic sums in their lesson as if they're no big deal.

If a history teacher can't ask a pupil how many years were between Battle of Hastings and Magna Carta (and be able to show them how to work it out if they struggle) then you reinforce the idea that only people good at maths need do maths...

Sadly I suspect that battle is lost as our kids are already told that spelling doesn't need to be corrected outside English lessons, so presumably numeracy isn't required outside maths.

I remember that the GCSE mock exams at my school for some subject were marked out of ninety, as the teacher for that subject could not work out a percentage. Doh! Your comment reflects my thought that Mathematics could be demonstrated practically.

When I was at school you were pulled up for writing 'oxagen' or "mathamatics'.
 
Last edited:

endure

GCM
Of course, but it is of course a self selection thing for the author to claim that:

For most of us, it’s bad memories of broken protractors and reducing fractions....

Who exactly is this most of us? What about people who manage not to break protractors and find reducing fractions to be easy - and useful. I wonder what Andy Haldane's background is?
Former Chief Economist at the Bank of England :lol:

 
Of course, but it is of course a self selection thing for the author to claim that:

For most of us, it’s bad memories of broken protractors and reducing fractions....

Who exactly is this most of us? What about people who manage not to break protractors and find reducing fractions to be easy - and useful. I wonder what Andy Haldane's background is?

Numeracy is just using numbers, none of the fun areas of Mathematics.
The guardian's "pass notes" is a regular "comedy" article, it's not serious commentary
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
I remember that the GCSE mock exams at my school for some subject were marked out of ninety, as the teacher for that subject could not work out a percentage. Doh! You comment reflects my thought that Mathematics could be demonstrated practically.

When I was at school you were pulled up for writing 'oxagen' or "mathamatics'.
But not for confusing "You" and "Your" apparently...

I blame loss of Empire and the cessation of using newspapers to wrap fish & chips in.
 
If you’re looking for reasons why people don’t take Maths past GCSE, then asking someone who did doesn’t seem like a useful approach?
I disagree: although my experience came later on, I see a fundamental flaw in having maths (at all levels) taught by people who understand it very well.

Counterintuitive, but the logic goes that those who instinctively understand mathematics - who "grok" it - are poor at explaining how it works to those who don't instinctively understand it. That might mean you should select capable and intelligent teachers, pay them a supplement and then force them to get to grips with GCSE maths: their own experiences and struggles with it may more effectively inform their teaching.
 

Yokel

LE
Joking aside, economist sees numeracy and mathematical skills in terms of money. What about someone who is going to do an apprenticeship as an electrician or mixing alloys in a foundry? Or many other things...

When does numeracy become algebra? Perhaps R=V/I and P=VI are numeracy, but what about P=I^2/R or V^2/R?

Being proficient at faultfinding electronics would require a reasonable degree of mathematical ability. Depending on what sort of things you are dealing with, you will work: Ohms law, power laws, (possibly) network theorems, potential and current division, component colour codes, multiples and sub-multiples, resistor, capacitors and inductors in series and parallel, inductive and capacitive reactance, impedance, power factor, phase angles, tuned circuits and so on. You need to understand things such as sinusoidal waveforms (peak, peak to peak, RMS) and component tolerances. And you need to be able to predict what a component will do, if say an amplifier has an input of 50mv and a gain dependant on feedback resistors, what conclusions would you make if the output was 50% less than what you expected from the service manual?

@Themanwho - good spot.

@bob231 - The best maths "teacher" I ever had was my Maths lecturer at my College of Further Education. As I was doing an Engineering course the maths was engineering based maths (A level standard but less abstract). The lecturer wasn't just an Mathematician and a lecturer, he was also an (ex) Engineer with many years of experience in the aerospace industry.
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
Joking aside, economist sees numeracy and mathematical skills in terms of money. What about someone who is going to do an apprenticeship as an electrician or mixing alloys in a foundry? Or many other things...

When does numeracy become algebra? Perhaps R=V/I and P=VI are numeracy, but what about P=I^2/R or V^2/R?

Being proficient at faultfinding electronics would require a reasonable degree of mathematical ability. Depending on what sort of things you are dealing with, you will work: Ohms law, power laws, (possibly) network theorems, potential and current division, component colour codes, multiples and sub-multiples, resistor, capacitors and inductors in series and parallel, inductive and capacitive reactance, impedance, power factor, phase angles, tuned circuits and so on. You need to understand things such as sinusoidal waveforms (peak, peak to peak, RMS) and component tolerances. And you need to be able to predict what a component will do, if say an amplifier has an input of 50mv and a gain dependant on feedback resistors, what conclusions would you make if the output was 50% less than what you expected from the service manual?

@Themanwho - good spot.

@bob231 - The best maths "teacher" I ever had was my Maths lecturer at my College of Further Education. As I was doing an Engineering course the maths was engineering based maths (A level standard but less abstract). The lecturer wasn't just an Mathematician and a lecturer, he was also an (ex) Engineer with many years of experience in the aerospace industry.
Grammar Nazism - it's not just an irritant, it's a way of life.

Numeracy - to my mind it's equivalent to arithmetical competence:
  • if you can balance your cheque book, you are numerate to a basic standard.
  • If you can work out what you can afford during a food shop, work out a percentage and divide a bill three ways you are numerate to a functional standard.
  • If you can work out the area of a circular garden and the volume of a water tank, you're numerate.
This is obviously only a shorthand sketch of my personal opinion and I've doubtless omitted various skills essential to being numerate, but you get the idea. Beyond that level the abstracts of algebra, logarithms and beyond sit firmly in the area of mathematics for me. These more advanced skills really should be a separate subject IMHO.

What gets me is the pride many people take in being innumerate. It's an acceptance of incompetence in an area which is an essential component of pretty much everything you do as an adult. Being unable to multiply two numbers together or split a bill should be something people are ashamed to admit, instead they boast about it...
 
Numeracy - to my mind it's equivalent to arithmetical competence:
  • if you can balance your cheque book, you are numerate to a basic standard.
  • If you can work out what you can afford during a food shop, work out a percentage and divide a bill three ways you are numerate to a functional standard.
  • If you can work out the area of a circular garden and the volume of a water tank, you're numerate.

This used to be called '' Mental Arithmetic - The basic 3 R's ( Reading, Riting & Rithmetic )

Algebra, geometry, trigonometry and all those other wonderful things fell under Mathematics.
 
Grammar Nazism - it's not just an irritant, it's a way of life.

Numeracy - to my mind it's equivalent to arithmetical competence:
  • if you can balance your cheque book, you are numerate to a basic standard.
  • If you can work out what you can afford during a food shop, work out a percentage and divide a bill three ways you are numerate to a functional standard.
  • If you can work out the area of a circular garden and the volume of a water tank, you're numerate.
This is obviously only a shorthand sketch of my personal opinion and I've doubtless omitted various skills essential to being numerate, but you get the idea. Beyond that level the abstracts of algebra, logarithms and beyond sit firmly in the area of mathematics for me. These more advanced skills really should be a separate subject IMHO.

What gets me is the pride many people take in being innumerate. It's an acceptance of incompetence in an area which is an essential component of pretty much everything you do as an adult. Being unable to multiply two numbers together or split a bill should be something people are ashamed to admit, instead they boast about it...
Yet the same people who are technically innumerate can manage scoring darts, even working out what the scores necessary are to complete a game, or calculate their potential winnings on a bet.
 

Yokel

LE
Grammar Nazism - it's not just an irritant, it's a way of life.

Numeracy - to my mind it's equivalent to arithmetical competence:
  • if you can balance your cheque book, you are numerate to a basic standard.
  • If you can work out what you can afford during a food shop, work out a percentage and divide a bill three ways you are numerate to a functional standard.
  • If you can work out the area of a circular garden and the volume of a water tank, you're numerate.
This is obviously only a shorthand sketch of my personal opinion and I've doubtless omitted various skills essential to being numerate, but you get the idea. Beyond that level the abstracts of algebra, logarithms and beyond sit firmly in the area of mathematics for me. These more advanced skills really should be a separate subject IMHO.

What gets me is the pride many people take in being innumerate. It's an acceptance of incompetence in an area which is an essential component of pretty much everything you do as an adult. Being unable to multiply two numbers together or split a bill should be something people are ashamed to admit, instead they boast about it...

I would prefer the term 'attention to detail' to 'Grammar Nazism'. I get your point, and hope that you get mine - numeracy is just the foundations of mathematics. Areas mean Pi and squares, volumes mean cubes. Does using Pi, squares and cubes, and such things count as numeracy or is it algebra and trigonometry?

As for your last paragraph - agree completely. So why do we keep letting these people become Government ministers or senior civil servants?

I have long thought that teaching Mathematics as a purely abstract subject not only makes it dry but disinterests people - I remember the lack of connection at school between Maths and Science., then there is another divide between these subjects and practical ones involving things like building things.
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
Yet the same people who are technically innumerate can manage scoring darts, even working out what the scores necessary are to complete a game, or calculate their potential winnings on a bet.
Have to disagree, those people you refer to tend to be quite happy with their arithmetical ability. It's mainly women and "creative" men in my experience.
 
Thread title case in point.

Went for lunch with friends yesterday, nice country pub, good food, well turned out staff who were all very pleasant.

On paying the bill, we wanted to go Dutch with our friends, the early 20’s waitress needed her iPhone to divide 266 by 2. Seriously, what are these kids taught nowadays???
Frontal adverbs in junior school. Noduff.
 
I disagree: although my experience came later on, I see a fundamental flaw in having maths (at all levels) taught by people who understand it very well.

Counterintuitive, but the logic goes that those who instinctively understand mathematics - who "grok" it - are poor at explaining how it works to those who don't instinctively understand it. That might mean you should select capable and intelligent teachers, pay them a supplement and then force them to get to grips with GCSE maths: their own experiences and struggles with it may more effectively inform their teaching.
Got it in one. Had a maths teacher who would audibly sigh with impatience when boys wouldn't instantly grasp a formula he'd written on the board. He preferred teaching the whizz kids as they could romp through the syllabus while the rest of us brought up the rear. I got a bad pass at maths in my Leaving Cert and it wasn't until much later in life that I found a good teacher and was able to pass my CPL/ATPL writtens.
 
Grammar Nazism - it's not just an irritant, it's a way of life.

Numeracy - to my mind it's equivalent to arithmetical competence:
  • if you can balance your cheque book, you are numerate to a basic standard.
  • If you can work out what you can afford during a food shop, work out a percentage and divide a bill three ways you are numerate to a functional standard.
  • If you can work out the area of a circular garden and the volume of a water tank, you're numerate.
This is obviously only a shorthand sketch of my personal opinion and I've doubtless omitted various skills essential to being numerate, but you get the idea. Beyond that level the abstracts of algebra, logarithms and beyond sit firmly in the area of mathematics for me. These more advanced skills really should be a separate subject IMHO.

What gets me is the pride many people take in being innumerate. It's an acceptance of incompetence in an area which is an essential component of pretty much everything you do as an adult. Being unable to multiply two numbers together or split a bill should be something people are ashamed to admit, instead they boast about it...
Ah yes… “I’m rubbish at maths ha ha”
“Well you must be extra feckin thick then because every pikey in the country can split a bill any number of ways despite never having been to school…”
 
I disagree: although my experience came later on, I see a fundamental flaw in having maths (at all levels) taught by people who understand it very well.
My writing style isn’t the clearest, but I don’t think we’re in opposition.

My point was analogous to “you don’t necessarily ask a 22 year retiree why someone washed out of basic training”

I agree that relying on the naturally adept to teach things may not be the best way. For example, one mathematician stuck teaching the engineering class I was in said something along the lines of “ I don’t expect you to understand this, you’re only engineers” which didn’t exactly endear him or his subject to us.
 
My writing style isn’t the clearest, but I don’t think we’re in opposition.

My point was analogous to “you don’t necessarily ask a 22 year retiree why someone washed out of basic training”

I agree that relying on the naturally adept to teach things may not be the best way. For example, one mathematician stuck teaching the engineering class I was in said something along the lines of “ I don’t expect you to understand this, you’re only engineers” which didn’t exactly endear him or his subject to us.
You're quite right, I misread yours. Apologies.
 

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