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Maths Until 18: When Two and Two Aren’t Put Together

Thomas Dean, Urmston Grammar, UK

When Rishi Sunak announced the concept of maths until 18 – it was met with a seismic sigh of despair not just from students but teachers alike. Why? Unlike many of the policies he creates, you can’t fault the ideology of Rishi Sunak here. In a government where so few decisions are made to support the young people of the country anymore – seen by the appointment of 5 education secretaries in one year – it should be seen as a positive mindset to focus on the young generation of kids. After all, we will have control of the country one day. However, for how Rishi Sunak’s thinking is positive, perhaps even noble, it is shocking how diabolically flawed the idea of maths until 18 is.

Ask many young people their least favourite subject and maths has a good chance of being one of the least popular. Maths as a concept in schools today requires almost no creative thinking, as set out by the curriculum. It’s as simple as you’re right or you’re wrong and whilst sometimes this can’t be avoided, the lack of any substance bores generations upon generations of young people and also leads to it becoming one of the most frustrating subjects not just to learn, but to teach – as traumatised parents have learnt during lockdown. As a result, maths achievements in the UK are not ideal, with almost 1 in 3 students not reaching the required pass mark of a 4 – or a C before the new and confused grading system. There is no doubt that Rishi Sunak claims of the UK’s ‘anti-maths’ mindset does reveal itself often in the country, and it therefore impacts the mental ability of the population.

Rishi has decided that the best way to fix underachieving in maths is to force more maths down the throats of teenagers, but as any expert or alternatively anyone who read the last paragraph will know, the larger issue is the content of the lessons. Not the volume of them. Pupils are not being shown how the mathematics they are learning translates into later life; this then leaves teachers with the unenviable task of explaining the use of finding the area of a cylinder in later life. There is a place for maths in life, but right now we just can’t see it. The curriculum is for a test: not for life. That is a damaging philosophy. IT also completely ignores the creative side of the human brain. ‘AI overlords of the future’ can’t yet think of ideas creatively better than humans – we still require a creative industry and for those jobs extra maths makes no sense and just creates more red tape.

Rishi has spoken on maths in later years being more practical based knowledge but with the state of the GSCE specification this seems so hollow. At best it’s a flawed plan which crams maths down the throats of students who have already had enough. At worst it’s a cynical scheme to distract the country from the tornado the country is currently stuck in. And one that is not worked. Overall, Mr Sunak, this is not the right answer. Are you sure you carried the 1?

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