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More than one in four girls want to drop maths at 14, survey finds

Girls are considerably more likely than boys to want to drop maths by the time they are 14, a survey out today shows.

The poll of 2,000 12- and 13 year-olds found that 28 per cent of girls would drop maths if they could, but only 17 per cent would drop English.

Boys thought that maths was more important, with just 22 per cent saying they would stop the studying the subject up to the age of 16 were it not compulsory. Slightly more – 26 per cent –  said that they would drop English.

The survey, which was sponsored by the Nationwide building society, also found that less than half of students could work out what change to expect from £100 if they had bought shopping worth £64.23.

Stephen Uden, the building society’s head of citizenship, said: “We’ve been working on educating young people about finances but at the root of that is basic numeracy. Not being able to do straightforward calculations makes it harder for those people to succeed in life.

“It is worrying that a quarter of all young people are only doing maths at GCSE because they are forced to, instead of seeing it as something which is relevant for everyday life.”

The poll comes as the the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also flagged up its concerns about girls’ attitudes towards maths.

A briefing paper from the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) team shows that the gender gap between girls and boys in maths has not narrowed in recent years.

It found that boys outperform girls in the subject in 38 of the 65 regions that take part in Pisa, by an average of 11 points – equivalent to three months at school. In England, this rises to 13 score points.

In the UK, 58 per cent of boys and 57.3 per cent of girls sitting GCSE mathematics in summer 2013 reached grade C or above. 

Sue Pope, chair of the general council of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics, said that students should be encouraged to value mathematics regardless of their career plans.

"The ways of thinking which it teaches are hugely prized, they help you in everyday life and help you to be more successful," she said. "We need people to realise how important mathematics is in modern society.”

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