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Maths - In the spotlight

Maths for the 21st century

On 6 January, the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) delivered a paper at the University of Liverpool questioning mathematical need in the workplace and higher education.

The paper cites the importance of maths in today's society, from the problem-solving skills needed for management jobs to the knowledge of models and algorithms required to understand computer software. Also, many industries depend on quantitative data: even careers that were once solely creative now demand mathematical skill, and the more our society shifts to technological formats, the more maths needs to return to the focus. In an increasingly technological environment, a calculator is no longer an excuse for not knowing maths.

The ACME paper raises some important issues.

- Teaching should not focus on uncontextualised maths: pupils should understand how they can transfer skills to problem-solving situations.

- Students should be encouraged to continue with maths to high levels; focus should be diverted from league tables.

- Under half the applicants for university courses desiring maths have studied it beyond GCSE.

- The relevance of maths needs to be stipulated clearly.

- Pupils need to be developed into independent mathematicians to engage interest.

What else?

The whole report, including an executive summary, can be downloaded from


In the Teachers TV collection, Daniel Gadd discusses maths in the workplace. And, to intrigue students about probability, use a discourse on lucky numbers by Marcus du Sautoy.

Make independent investigators of your students with TimBurnham's Scalextric task.

MrBartonMaths lays down a challenge to find the best mobile phone contract.

In the forums

Teachers in the TES maths forum share their plans for the current Year 11 as the new spec comes into play in June 2012, and say what they would like to see in the national curriculum review.

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