Our TCT for Mathematics, Rebecca Brown, imagines a future where our attitude to maths is re-evaluated, to create a more equal world.
As the prime minister recently announced, the UK must “reimagine its approach to numeracy. In a world where data is everywhere and statistics underpin every job, letting our children out into that world without those skills is letting our children down,”
In his speech, Mr Sunak said he wanted people to have the skills they needed “to feel confident” with finances and life events like mortgage deals.
I have taught maths for over 15 years and had a career in finance before that. And, I do have to agree with Mr Sunak’s main points: whatever your chosen path in life, maths, and a sound financial education are crucially important. The UK’s school children are unprepared for their data driven futures. However, is a compulsory education to 18 going to solve this? We need to inspire and facilitate a joy of mathematics.
As The GDST’s Trust Consultant Teacher for Maths I have the opportunity to collaborate with, and support the maths community across our family of 25 schools. Our aim is to deliver inspiring teaching and generate a love of learning maths across our 20,000 students.
The Girls’ Futures Report 2022 (a landmark survey commissioned by the GDST of 5,000 girls in state and independent schools and academies across the UK) revealed that seven out of 10 girls would like more financial education. We know that a good financial education could be a route to significantly breaking through the residual barrier of gender inequality and create better opportunities for all. Our UK education system needs to address this. Now.
Positive maths attitudes
We cannot shy away from the fact that Maths Anxiety (defined as a negative emotional reaction to mathematics) is a very real issue. It results in varying degrees of perceived helplessness, panic and mental disorganisation arising among some people when faced with a mathematical problem. A poll for the Maths Anxiety Trust conducted by Ipsos Mori, found more than a third of 15- to 24- year-olds feel anxious when shown a maths problem. The same applies to one in five British adults.
Compulsory maths education to 18, without being carefully thought through, could have a negative impact on our society. Mathematician Hannah Fry says that studying maths post GCSE could traumatise teenagers and not have the intended outcome of transforming Britain.
The Girls’ Future Report 2022 identified Mental health as one of most important issues for girls. It highlighted that we need to address any anxieties – eg. maths anxiety and financial anxiety, which could become crippling in adulthood. The UK needs to take the opportunity to completely redesign the future of maths education to be fit for purpose. With technology at our side we need to consider what skills we actually need to teach to foster a love of learning maths.
Maths is a subject that employers really value and respect. And the skills it nurtures – problem solving, critical thinking, quantitative and analytical thinking – are among those identified as skills for the future by the World Economic Forum.
The joy of math
At the GDST we take pride in instilling a love of learning maths from a young age. Maths at a GDST school is fun. The students get to build virtual race cars, create and budget for virtual gardens or manage troop deployment during the Second World War – all in the name of maths. Competing in annual GDST Junior Maths Times Tables Rock Stars competition and having opportunities to attend events such as the GDST Junior Maths Conference at The Mathematical Institute Oxford University are just some of the ways students begin their love of maths.
With the right teacher, students can be inspired and pushed enough to achieve in maths, regardless of their natural ability. We aim to create a social element to maths teaching, and that’s the best way to learn. Girls love working together, they grow in confidence, essential in their teenage years. It is this knowledge and understanding of girls’ education that empowers teachers at The GDST to be able to inspire and encourage all our students and make learning maths a joy.
We need to listen to and act on what our young people need for the future. We need to support and empower young women to achieve their potential. Redefining maths education and financial literacy are fundamental in this journey. Let’s start now and reimagine numeracy together to provide our young people with the skills for our nation to not only succeed but thrive in the future.