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Scheme that does the job;Mathematics;Subject of the week

Maths is in crisis - widely perceived as too difficult, too boring, too abstract. A scheme launched in London this month, maths@work, aims to counter the subject's poor image. Announcing the initiative, Professor Harry Beker, president of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, argued that teachers and pupils must stop seeing maths as a "dead-end subject" and instead use it as a key to open up opportunities, using vital analytic and problem-solving skills.

If anyone can get that message across, it's Professor Beker, who says: "I enjoy waking up every morning to life's challenges."

Having started off with a PhD and an academic career, Professor Beker rose through the ranks of electronics giant Racal to found Zergo, parent company of software encryption success story Baltimore Technology in 1988 now publicly valued at US$350million.

Professor Beker advocates "the idea that you take maths as far as you can - at any level -and it will benefit you and your nation".

In November maths@work will publish a CD-Rom, parents' pack, teacher's pack and video to convince pupils that maths is the road to success at work. A series of roadshows will feature young people from a wide range of professions and industries.

Having detailed his success, Professor Beker challenges his audience: "I'm a boring fuddy-duddy mathematician. that's what mathematicians are - aren't they?"

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