Maths views don't add up

October 31, 1997

Professional mathematicians, scientists and engineers have plenty of important issues to discuss with a government that might have been expected to bring fresh thinking to higher education and research policy, and could have been spared the depressing necessity of responding to the extraordinary views of the minister responsible for these matters, Baroness Blackstone (THES, October 17).

Mathematics graduates, to take one example, have no difficulty in finding employment, and are in tremendous demand in sectors such as finance that earn billions for the economy. To suggest that we should not attempt to reverse any decline in the number of students studying mathematics at university is both foolish and irresponsible.

What is needed is the opposite: the government should conduct a broad examination of the teaching of mathematics in schools to discover what needs to be done both to encourage more students to take mathematics and related courses at university and to redress the fall in recent years in the level of mathematical skills of university entrants.

The London Mathematical Society, the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications and the Royal Statistical Society have already tried, but failed, to establish a dialogue on these matters with the Department for Education and Employment.

John Ball. President. London Mathematical Society

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