Pythagoras Alone Won’t Help our Children Build a Successful Career
Michael Mercieca blogs for Huff Post UK
Michael Mercieca writes:
“Hardly a month goes by without a report telling us how bad UK children are at maths. Year after year we’re told we’re not trying hard enough; not applying ourselves; we’re falling behind in the league tables and we really must do better. Meanwhile, the media rush around trying to find someone or something to blame: our poor old teachers; the curriculum; the government; our school system; the British culture. No one is safe from this blame-game.
“But why don’t we just stop and think for a moment. Our Pavlovian response to maths is that it is special – untouchable; it’s the most important subject on the curriculum. And though we have taken vital steps towards helping put maths in a life-skills context, in my view, we are still cramming it into our children’s heads in broadly the same way we did 30 years ago. But what if, in the 21st century, learning maths in the traditional way is actually counter-productive? Is the way we teach maths actually hampering our children rather than helping them? Could it be that because our world has changed so much so fast, straight maths is becoming largely irrelevant?
“I can hear people shouting as they read! Yes, maths is important, of course it is! We didn’t all suffer hundreds of hours of double maths for nothing. We need to be numerate and understand basic maths. If our children can’t count, understand shapes, time, speed, weights, decimals and basic probability, fractions and percentages, their lives will be infinitely more difficult. But I challenge anyone, except perhaps a carpenter or an architect, to tell me that Pythagoras’ theorem has enriched their lives, clinched that job or brought them untold wealth. I challenge anyone who is not a professional mathematician to argue the case that for the vast majority of people, the daily use of quadratic equations is the key to a successful life.