## GCSE - in maths now easier

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- Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

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GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 10:32 AM

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In the hard copy they gave some examples and it was amazing how much I had forgotten from when I took 'O' Level in the 1950's - I had to think a bit to solve them.

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 11:19 AM

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 12:13 PM

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Tracey.

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 12:28 PM

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Cliff

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 4:24 PM

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 4:35 PM

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Must've been the same one that my friend acheived a 'B' in - not bad considering he went to the exams armed only with a pencil. No calculator, ruler or protractor for him.

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 5:20 PM

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Without the big maths stories our numbers are plummeting

Britain has been denied a generation of experts thanks to dumbed-down teaching of what should be a magical subject

Marcus du Sautoy The Guardian, Tuesday June 3 2008

What is the point of studying mathematics? I have never used a sine or cosine in my everyday life. And solving quadratic equations? Although a footballer subconsciously solves one every time he works out where to stand to volley a free kick, I don't think Wayne Rooney is using the formula he was taught in school to make his decision. So should we be worried by a new report out today claiming that the failure of mathematics education in the UK has lead to the disappearance of half a million mathematicians?

A study published by the thinktank Reform finds that since the 1980s, mathematics has been dumbed down and made so anaemic that students are being put off taking it beyond the compulsory tick in the box at GSCE. City firms have certainly noticed the evidence of a lost tribe. The great majority of the mathematicians they rely on are recruited from overseas. Countries such as China and India have realised the crucial role mathematicians play in the success of their economy and are pumping out fantastically competent mathematicians that increasingly fill the hole left in Britain. The report estimates that the cost to the UK economy since 1990 of not raising homegrown mathematicians totals a staggering £9bn.

Their analysis of exam papers from the 1950s to the present day concludes that the current generation of students are not being stretched mathematically in the same way their predecessors were. An attempt to make the mathematics more "relevant" has ended up just making it boring. The move away from rigour and logic, the bedrock of mathematics, has emasculated the subject. But it is precisely this ability to think logically that employers are so thirsty for. And it is not just the financial sphere that values such skills. Mathematics is much more than an ability to manipulate numbers and perform arithmetic computations. Trigonometry and quadratic equations are important because they teach people an analytic way of thinking that can be applied in all walks of life.

But if we want to ensure we don't lose another generation of mathematicians it must also be an inspiring subject, forming a springboard for the dive into deeper mathematics. We are being too timid in what we are challenging students with. It is like teaching someone to play a musical instrument and only making them play scales and arpeggios, never letting them listen to real music. Even if you can't yet play Bach or the blues, at least you realise what you are aiming for.

In mathematics we are missing telling the kids the big stories of maths. Students should be exposed to the wonders of four-dimensional shapes, the fascination of the primes, the mysteries of topology. One can motivate these as essential tools in modern life: they are key to the way mobile phones change voices into a stream of 0s and 1s, how credit card numbers are kept secure on the internet, how Google works. But they also have an exciting quality in their own right which, regardless of practical applications, can challenge students to see the world in new ways.

It was these big stories that turned me on to mathematics. A teacher at my comprehensive school when I was about 13 recommended a couple of books that explored maths beyond the long division of the classroom.

He pointed me towards Martin Gardner's column in Scientific American, which slipped in fascinating bits of maths on the back of puzzles. I attended the Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution, that year given by Christopher Zeeman, the first time they were ever given on maths. He made it all look so exciting I came away knowing that I wanted to be a mathematician when I grew up.

It is a lack of teachers who can tell the big stories that is part of the problem. But it is one that government is trying to address with the introduction of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics, a coordinated attempt to enrich teachers, who can in turn inspire their pupils.

It's not as if mathematics is completely isolated in our society. There seems to be a real thirst recently for things mathematical. Last year Complicite's play A Disappearing Number about mathematics was a sell out at the Barbican in London, won the Olivier best play award and returns for a rerun this autumn. On television, Ridley Scott's Numb3rs does for maths what CSI did for forensic medicine.

Maths even has a starring role in two recent Hollywood movies, 21 and the Oxford Murders, with Kevin Spacey and Elijah Wood showing how maths can be used to break Vegas and crack crimes. And how many people sit down every morning to stimulate their brain cells with the logical challenges of the sudokus that fill our newspapers? Perhaps it is time to find innovative ways to bring this thirst for mathematical stories and games from the adult playground into the classroom and transform mathematics from geek to chic.

· Marcus du Sautoy is professor of mathematics at Wadham College, Oxford and author of Finding Moonshine

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 6:38 PM

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 7:05 PM

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 7:13 PM

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I am alright at spelling/grammar but not adding up numbers.................. mind you I only went to a Secondary Modern School [and they don't exist anymore]!

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 7:24 PM

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Quote from: Be3G ......... but I wonder how many people do actually use things like that outside of the classroom...

All the time when users complain about they broadband speed and start to quote attenuation and SNR figures as dB is a logarithmic function.

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 7:26 PM

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 7:31 PM

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 7:35 PM

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Re: GCSE - in maths now easier

03-06-2008 8:45 PM

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Quote from: itsme But 6dB x 6dB =12dB

Ultra-pedantic mode on:

6dB x 6 = 12dB

6dB x 6dB = something else (12dB

^{2}? Not sure what you do when squaring exponential units.)

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