The recommendation within the report of the Independent Mathematics Taskforce, chaired by Carol Vorderman, that all young people should continue to study mathematics after the age of 16 has been warmly welcomed by the Royal Statistical Society.
In its statement responding to the report, the Society said successive studies had deplored the fact that so many young people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland did no further mathematics once GCSE was completed. As a result they often took jobs or entered higher education without an adequate basis for dealing with the modern world.
The RSS endorsed the Taskforce proposal to give numbers work a bigger role in primary schools outside formal mathematics teaching, and supported the recommendation that those aged 16 plus do some form of compulsory mathematics.
Findings by the panel, chaired by Carol Vorderman, were in line with recent reports from the Advisory Committee on Mathematical Education (ACME) and the Nuffield Foundation. There is a growing consensus on the need for additional mathematics and statistics education.
The RSS said it hoped it could work with the education secretary Michael Gove to help turn the report’s recommendations into practicable plans for schools, sixth form and further education colleges in England and with education authorities in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Martin Dougherty, Executive Director of the RSS, said “Statistical know-how is critical in all areas of modern life, so we have to improve opportunities to learn to use stats in a wide range of subjects in the national curriculum, above and beyond the formal mathematics curriculum. We welcome the suggestions in the Taskforce report for teaching statistics at more technically challenging levels, as well as improving understanding of the concepts of risk and probability among all school children.”
Ms Vorderman said “Mathematics is a critically important subject. It is a language without which the entire global infrastructure is struck dumb. This report does not make comfortable reading. It is aspirational but this does not mean making maths ‘harder’ for everyone; it means making the teaching better and what is taught much more suitable for those who are learning it.”
The Nuffield study
showed the UK is lagging far behind other countries in post-16 mathematics education; most of the countries in the study also include some statistics content as part of the mathematics education.
The ACME report
estimates that of those students entering Higher Education in any year there are around 330,000 students would benefit from studying some mathematics (including statistics) at a level beyond GCSE, but fewer than 125,000 will have done so.