Poets Michael Rosen, Carol Ann Duffy, John Agard and Jackie Kay have all been recruited to help rid the nation of its fear of maths. They are writing new number poems for Maths Year 2000's website, which will go on-line next month. Verses are being composed for all the integers to 100, plus other significant symbols such as infinity and pi.
Maths Year 2000, a Government initiative to underpin the national numeracy strategy and to build on the Year of Reading, is to be launched in January. Adults are far less likely to be embarrassed about poor maths skills than about being unable to read well. But Basic Skills Agency chairman Sir Claus Moser told a conference this month that it is "equally crippling" and affects more people.
Thousands, for instance, have trouble calculating VAT at 17.5 per cent, or understanding interest rates. And from next year, all newly-trained teachers will have to pass tough numeracy tests to ensure they can cope not only with school maths, but also with the demands of record-keeping.
Maths Year 2000 is to target adults as well as schoolchildren and their parents.
11 = Alan Newland, the educational director of the project, says it will give schools an excellent opportunity to extend their partnerships with families and the community, as well as with businesses. A series of TV adverts next year will advise parents on how to help their children with maths, and a free practical advice booklet called "It All Adds Up!" will be available in January in post offices.
The first newsletter for schools should be arriving any day now, and will be sent out half-termly. There will be six bi-monthly themes, with Maths on Time - celebrating 1000 years of maths history - starting in January.
Schools sending the freepost form that comes with the newsletter to register on the mailing list will get a "maths through the millennium" wallchart. The subsequent themes will be: March - maths takes shape; May - maths at work; July - maths in Play; September - maths and people; November - maths and money.
Maths Year 2000 is planning scores of local, regional, and national events, including a series of "Mathfests" around the country, and schools are encouraged to send in their ideas.
Hagley first school in Worcestershire, for example, has already planned an ambitious series of activities including a new maths area with giant cupboards, keys and pencil case; "MathsBuzz" seminars for keen pupils to work with inspiring adults; a maths trail and links with a senior school and a computer company.
Maths Year 2000's website (www.mathsyear2000.org) is due to be in operation early next month. Maths Year 2000, 57-58 Russell Square, London WC1B 4HP;e-mail: email@example.com.