No doubt about it - we're addicted to maths
As Maths Year 2000 nears its end (there are still some major events taking place in January), it is time to consider how much of our aim of creating a positive "can-do" attitude to maths has been fulfilled.
Its most outstanding success has been the creation of an innovative website that has received enormous critical and popular acclaim. It now contains hundreds of pages of addictive maths games and investigations to suit all ages, a stunning interactive museum in which you can create your own musical scores, a fascinating anamorphic art and design section, an enormous variety of downloadable resources for teachers, reference and advice sections for parents, revision packages for both GCSE and A-level students and many other sections. With the highest number of page impressions and unique visitors than any other site of its kind, it is proving that it has something for everyone - a substantial achievement for any website, let alone one devoted to maths.
Perhaps even more remarkable has been the public response to our Mathfests - the fun, practical, family-oriented maths events staged in nearly 30 venues across the country in shopping centres, football grounds, railway stations, country shows, schools and colleges.
Five thousand people braved an Oxford frost to attend our first event last January, 7,000 people turned out in the rain to Manchester City football ground in July and up to 20,000 came to a series of events in York in October.
At one shopping centre event I met a harassed-looking woman dragging her three children through the Saturday shopping. I challenged her "to come and have some fun with maths". She laughed sceptically as she insisted she "hated maths". Her children nodded in silent ageement. I met her again five hours later. She had not done much shopping but she and her children had together explored origami, shape puzzles, tiling, braiding and played an array of giant maths games. She said: "I never knew that maths could be so much fun - we've had a wonderful day today, haven't we?" The children again nodded in agreement but this time not in silence. "Yes!" they chorused. It was to become typical of many such encounters.
The half-termly Maths Year 2000 newsletter helped every school in England to share in the inspirational ideas of other schools, colleges, libraries, museums and galleries that were staging similar events, workshops and themed weeks and adding to the continuing success of the National Numeracy Strategy. Schools also received free wallcharts, posters, event packs, postcards, booklets and other resources culminating in the hugely successful participation pack produced for Number Day on December 5, which raised thousands of pounds for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children through sponsored maths games.
Last month I received a telephone call from a teacher asking what was happening to Maths Year after 2000: "There is so much momentum now with the Numeracy Strategy and Maths Year 2000. We've had such fun this year too. It can't stop now!" Fortunately, the Government has taken a similar view and committed itself to continuing the campaign and to "Count On!" in to 2001 and perhaps beyond that. If the increasingly positive attitudes of parents and children that we have witnessed this year are added to the unfailing hard work and support of teachers for Maths Year 2000, then it will surely prove to be much greater than the sum of its parts.
Alan Newland is the education director of Maths Year 2000Web: www. mathsyear2000.org