Gamble with numbers

The laws of gambling could be particularly useful in making maths more interesting, according to a leading academic.

Professor Alastair Gillespie, chairman of the Scottish Mathematical Council, suggests that using dice and packs of cards in secondary schools could encourage more people to take up the subject.

"I am not advocating gambling for children," he said in a newspaper interview, "but there are some classic problems in probability which are really gambling problems."

"Things like tossing coins and cutting cards are simple techniques which teach pupils about basic maths, and I think it would catch the interest of students if we were to introduce that in schools."

His emphasis on the need to make maths more "relevant" to youngsters in such ways chimes with the HMIE report on maths in 2004 which concluded that more had to be done to win over pupils to the subject.

Professor Gillespie said he did not believe his suggestion would encourage young people to take up gambling because, by teaching them about the realities of probability, they would realise how unlikely it was they would win.

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