More maths for kids? Great!

On more maths for school kids, for longer, I’m afraid I’m with the PM here… I’m an economist and didn’t do A level maths, and it set my career back notably… All social science courses at university use A level, to first year degree level maths. But the thing is, these maths units, within social science and other finance degrees, are taught by social scientists not mathematicians, and they are generally taught awfully, and most students at the end of the course can’t differentiate between a dependant and independent variable, let alone do actual differentiation! And these skills are used frequently in all aspects of finance, not just STEM…

Whether we like it or not STEM is an increasing part of the future… You cannot get onto a credible science or engineering degree course without 3 A levels in maths and science – and psychology is not considered a science by most engineering departments! I started my career as a labour market economist, and it’s true that we are one of the countries that studies the narrowest range of subjects at 16 to 18. It is not the day to day application of maths to normal life situations that we are talking about, because that level of maths’ competency (if not actually the scenarios) should have been achieved by 14 or 15. Economics, btw, is far poorer, for being so focused on maths. I didn’t do my MSc Economics until I was 42 – and it was all degree level maths, with little actual economics… But that’s a separate point…

It’s also pretty true that those who don’t do higher level maths, struggle to get the higher paying jobs (not getting well paid by being self employed, which is open to all)… The world is getting increasingly technical. AI is all maths. The reason why I did not do my MSc until so late (I had another Masters earlier on), was precisely because I loved literature so much…I adore the arts… But that old CP Snow addage about there being “two intellectual worlds”, the arts on the one side and science on the other, doesn’t hold true anymore…

I’m not saying we do maths to the exclusion of the arts and humanities – but that we do it as well. It is an art form to teach maths well and so very few can do this.

I’m convinced teachers can be taught how to teach maths! (“How do planes fly? How do we know where a planet will be in 100 years time? What’s a Ponzi scheme and why can it never work? How can I minimise my overhead costs? Why are some cars faster than others. Etc etc”)

Here’s a piece I wrote about the sheer misery of doing this level of maths in my subject… But I still had to do it, to know the discipline.

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Author: Damian Merciar

Damian Merciar is Managing Director of Merciar Business Consulting, http://www.merciar.com, a niche business economics consultancy founded in 1998. He has over twenty years experience in the areas of commercial Business Strategy. He is experienced in the transition environments of nationalized to private sector state utilities and the senior practice of commercial management, advisorial consultancy, and implementation. He has carried out policy advisory work for government ministries and been an adviser to institutional bodies proposing changes to government. He holds an MSc Economics from the University of Surrey’s leading Economics department and an MBA from the University of Kent. Also attending the leading University in the Middle East, studying International Relations and Language, for which he won a competitive international scholarship, and has a BA (Hons) in Economic History and Political Economy from the University of Portsmouth. He is currently based in London.

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