THE PRIME Minister and Carol Vorderman, the TV star famous for doing sums in her head, joined forces this week in an attempt to show that mental arithmetic can be a fun.
The pair helped launch the countdown to Maths Year 2000. From September primary schools will be expected to do both a daily maths lesson and literacy hour as part of the Government's drive to raise standards in the basics.
Ms Vorderman, who has made millions demonstrating aptitude for mental arithmetic on Channel 4's Countdown programme, said: "It is time for geeks and nerds to come out of their sweat shirts. It is going to be the decade of the nerd."
Ms Vorderman dismissed the notion that children have to be geniuses to do mental maths. "There is a popular view that there is a maths gene so you are either a genius or complete rubbish. You have to practise to become reasonably competent."
Her message was underlined by Tony Blair, who stressed the need to destroy the myth that it is clever to be hopeless at maths. He said: "The urgent priority is to improve the teaching of maths, particularly in primary schools, which lay the foundations for success or failure.
"We must also forge a new status for maths within society - to make numeracy more accessible, even fun. That is what Maths Year 2000 is all about."
Advice to schools states that teachers should introduce a daily maths lesson of between 45 to 60 minutes starting with 10 minutes of mental calculation and ending with a 10-minute revision session.
The main part of the lesson can be taught to the whole class or to groups or pairs. The framework suggests teachers should spend maximum time directing teaching and questioning.
Dsks should be moved to form groups of u-shapes or one large horse shoe around a board. And that the board should have a number line running below it.
The Government is spending pound;55 million on the numeracy strategy. More than 300 consultants have been appointed to train and support teachers and 1,760 volunteers will assist.
The strategy's success will be measured against ministers' target of 75 per cent of 11-year-olds reaching the expected maths standard by 2002. That requires an improvement of 16 percentage points on last year's results.
Key objectives include:
* Count reliably up to 10 everyday objects.
* Recognise numerals 1 to 9.
* Use words such as "circle""bigger" to describe shapesize.
* Within the range 0 to 30, say the number that is 1 or 10 more or less than any given number.
* Know by heart all pairs of numbers with a total of 10.
* Use mental strategies to solve simple problems using counting, addition, subtraction, doubling and halving.
* Understand that subtraction is the inverse of addition.
* Know by heart all addition and subtraction facts for each number to at least 10.
* Know and use halving as the inverse of doubling.
* Know by heart facts for the 2 and 10 multiplication tables.
* Know by heart all addition and subtraction facts for each number to 20.
* Know by heart facts for the 2, 5 and 10 multiplication tables.
* Understand division and recognise it is the inverse of multiplication.
* Use known number facts and place value to add or subtract mentally.
* Know by heart facts for the 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10 times tables.
* Derive quickly division facts corresponding to those tables.
* Use decimal notation for tenths and hundredths.
* Calculate mentally a difference such as 8006-2993.
* Carry out column addition and subtraction of number less than 10,000.
* Know by heart all multiplication facts up to 10 x 10.
* Find simple percentages.
* Solve simple problems involving ratio and proportion.
* Derive quickly division facts corresponding to multiplication tables up to 10 x 10.