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Lost squaw route

The latest casualty of the teacher shortage crisis appears to be the study of geometry. According to a Royal Society report (News, page 3), many teenagers are struggling to understand shapes, even after gaining A-levels, because of a lack of specialist maths teachers. As a consequence, students taking up science and engineering courses at university are floundering, we are told.

This is serious stuff. A thorough grounding in geometry is essential if Britain is to maintain its cutting-edge in areas such as genetics, drug design and architecture. We may have led the world with Dolly the sheep and the human genome project, but the fiasco over the wobbly millennium bridge over the Thames suggests we should not be complacent. Recruiting enough maths teachers to secure geometry's place in the curriculum will be no easy task. In the meantime, there is a danger that fewer and fewer teenagers will be able to fathom that fine old Pythagorean joke: "The squaw of the hippopotamus hide is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides."

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