Thursday, 19 June 2008

Why Maths Still Counts

Based on this story and blog in the guardian:

So, yesterday, the Guardian ran an piece where one of their writers attempted some, pretty basic, maths tests. The tests were aimed at kids from I guess 9 up to 16. And basically she failed, and from what I read, she failed largely because her brain though "Maths, ahhhh, scary" and didn't actually think of what the question was asking. For example

If the nth term in a sequence is n - 9, what are the first 4 terms?

Anyway, the statement being thrown around a lot at the moment is that when adults say "Oh yeah, I was never any good at maths", it should be thought of more along the lines of saying "Oh yeah, I always found grammar and spelling hard, and struggle to read long words". Basically it should cause the speaker more embarasment.

Anywho, in my opinion a lot of early maths dificulty is in breaking down a question into the information it gives you and the answer it wants.

So what are your guys' opinions on the fall of maths?

1 comment:

TheTelf said...

Part of the problem, presumably, is that English is far more prevalent in day to day life than maths is for most people. We talk to people and read and write for large portions of the day, but most people won't be faced with a mathematical task more than once a day or so.

And even when they are faced with one, "work out how much my shopping is going to cost" is a very different task from "solve this abstract problem involving variables".

Part of the solution is, like you say, getting rid of the "argh, maths, scary!" bias that society has. This is made more difficult because, whereas with spelling and grammar, you can get your point across even if you make some mistakes, with maths you are right or you are wrong.

It's easier to be confident about practicing writing or reading when you get closer and closer each time (and when partial success is still valuable), than it is about maths, where you will fail every time until you learn how to do it.

IANAE, so just my thoughts.