What a difference a year makes;Maths Year 2000

1st October 1999 at 01:00
Maths Year 2000 aims to cure the nation of its number-blindness.

Alan Newland details what lies ahead.

Maths can be fun and exciting. Feeling good about numbers builds confidence in tackling everyday situations - from working out shopping bills to dealing with mortgages.

Maths Year 2000 will be launched this January to help increase the understanding and awareness of maths for the nation - not just children. But the year also needs to make a difference to people's lives - we want to get rid of the national fear of figures.

We are more willing to admit to poor numeracy than literacy, often accompanied by an attitude that being "hopeless with numbers" doesn't really matter. It does.

Building on the success of the National Year of Reading, Maths Year 2000 will provide a unique opportunity for schools to extend their partnerships with families and the community. Parents will be encouraged to get involved through a series of television adverts which will give practical tips on how they can help their children with maths. There will be an accompanying booklet and a series of radio adverts will be aimed at teenagers. The Basic Skills Agency will help adults with poor numeracy.

On top of this, the year will have its own website. As well as maths games and puzzles for children, the site will also be a valuable resource for schools, with ideas from teachers on how to involve children, parents and local businesses. It will showcase good ideas, news, events and a directory of education business links.

There will be six bi-monthly themes to the year. The first, Maths on Time, will celebrate maths throughout the millennium. The other five themes are: Maths at Work, Maths in Play, Maths and Money, Maths takes Shape and Maths and People. Tying in with the themes will be scores of local, regional and national events.

Maths Year 2000 is a great opportunity to be creative about the way schools work with parents and local businesses. The Government is making pound;500,000 available to fund such initiatives.

Big companies will also be supporting the year. McVities and Mirror Group Newspapers are sponsoring a national schools competition to name the Maths Year 2000 logo mascot. They are also launching a Maths Stuff for Schools token collection scheme. High street shops will also be involved, sponsoring in-store activities, games and software. Fantasy Football League will be running a Fantasy League Schools Game; the Office of National Statistics and the Royal Statistical Society are developing a children's census; and Walkers Crisps and News International are relaunching their Books for Schools scheme.

The National Numeracy Strategy is a vital part of the drive to raise numeracy standards. As well as transforming the way mathematics is taught, the Government is using Maths Year 2000 to encourage everyone to embrace the subject.

Good numeracy skills are vital. Difficulty with numbers means problems in daily life. A Basic Skills Agency survey has shown that far too many of us have difficulty in working out - even with a calculator - simple tasks such as the 12.5 per cent service charge on a restaurant bill or 17.5 per cent value-added tax on purchases.

In employment, those with inadequate number skills are much more likely to be unemployed for longer. They have greater difficulty finding and holding on to full-time jobs and, when they do, earn less. Those with a maths qualification earn more than those without.

Studies show that our children do poorly in maths compared with other countries.

Maths Year 2000 aims to change all this. Getting involved can and will make a difference.

Alan Newland is education director of Maths Year 2000.Write with ideas and suggestions about getting involved and to join the campaign's mailing list to: Maths Year 2000, 57-58 Russell Square, London WC1B 4HPe-mail: info@mathsyear2000.org and visit the website at www.mathsyear2000.org from December.A maths business links directory "Mathematics is our Business" is being collated by Business in the CommunityESSO. To contribute, contact Nicola Berry, BITC, 44 Baker Street, London W1 1DH

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