Donkey work is making maths a beast of burden

6th April 2012 at 01:00

Conrad Wolfram (pictured) is right to argue that we need to rethink our priorities for maths education ("Computers do it better", 30 March). It is bizarre, for example, that we still teach pupils to use tables of probabilities three decades after the calculator ousted the books of logarithms so hated by our parents.

Keith Devlin of Stanford University, in an article entitled "All the math taught at university can be outsourced. What now?", argues that the West's competitive advantage must come from mathematical creativity; countries such as India are already our technical equals and charge a lot less for their skills.

If schools are serious when they claim to be preparing young people for the challenges of the 21st century, they need to understand that forcing another generation to spend hours solving trigonometric equations and reading books of tables will only result in even more people telling me cheerfully how much they hated maths when they were at school.

Matthew Handy, Director of mathematics, dotmaths.

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