Student numbers are consistently drifting from high- to medium-level mathematics courses, and migrating from there to the lowest level. The nation needs mathematics, and mathematicians, to keep up with its traditional commercial rivals, and also with newer competitors such as China and India; yet the mathematics economy is losing out. It’s cool to drop out of mathematics at school, but no-one would be proud of being unable to read.
Sound familiar? Yes, it could easily be a paraphrasing of current concerns in Australia, but it’s actually a precis of a recently released report on mathematics in the UK, “The value of mathematics“, written for the UK think-tank Reform by Laura Kounine, John Marks and Elizabeth Truss. Started by a current Conservative MP and a former head of the Political Section in the Conservative Research Department, Reform includes among its executives and advisors the Rector of Imperial College, London, a British Liberal Democrat politician, and the former CEO of Vodafone.
The report lays the blame at the door of declining academic standards in schools, and a drift away from rigorous approaches to teaching mathematics.