Yesterday I was involved in yet another discussion about whether we should be encouraging Faith Schools with Government Grants or banning them completely. Not so long ago another discussion in the same forum was about whether we should be trying to force fed pupils more maths or whether maths as taught in schools is a waste of time? The arguments followed a remarkably similar course which lends credibility to my contention that certain scientists treat science as a religion.
In the maths debate, mathematician Marcus de Sautoy opened for the pro maths side and demolished his own case in his first sentence, saying: “When Wayne Rooney takes a shot at goal he first does a simultaneous equation.”
I think not. Can you imagine Motty raving: “ And the ball goes to Rooney. He does an equation, he shoots, he scores.” The suggestion that Rooney even knows what an equation is stretches our credulity.
The reason I raise this is a new government report on education concludes that primary teachers are not good enough at maths to teach their pupils. I think fatsally might have a few things to say about that so we await her comments with baited breath.
When I had a quick look at a SATS examination paper aimed at eleven year olds it was clear at once that the problem lies not with teachers but with the people who control the curriculum, the maths academics. The tests are being set by the kind of fuckwits who find maths fascinating.
The problem with maths you see is there exists a small minority who think mathematics is the most interesting thing in the world and worth doing just for fun. Then there are the rest of us who are sane. Now the maths for fun brigade, who include most academic mathematicians, cannot understand why sane people do not share their enthusiasm. But these people would rather solve an equation than get laid so there you go.
To illustrate why maths is such a deeply unpopular subject for study here is a question from that maths test.
Steven makes between 30 and 50 biscuits. If he packs them in threes he has two left over and if he packs them in fives he has one left over. How many biscuits did Steven make.
So what does this question tell us about Steven? First, he hasn’t the sense he was born with, anybody with at least one functioning brain cell would just count the effing biscuits. Second, Steven suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A normal person would just tip the biscuits in a tin or a Tupperware box. The answer to the question then is who cares, Steven should try to get out more.
Only a person with the mindset of Roy Cropper from Coronation Street or Gordon Brown would pack the biscuits in threes or fives. And even they would just eat the spare ones instead of fretting over them. This leads us to think that Steven the biscuit maker is not simply a tad obsessive but might be autistic.
And what kind of message does that send to schoolkids about the desirability of learning maths.
The skill of the Mathematician lies in their ability to turn a very simple everyday situation into a very complex mathematical problem. Count the effing biscuits, fuckwits.
As Aristotle said: What we have to do we learn by doing. And many of us who daydreamed through maths lessons in school found in later life we could solve very complex arithmetic problems because we had a practical need to solve them.