3.8% of pupils failing to achieve “significant” mathematics qualifications, according to the Scottish Labour Party. So what? How many of us need them in our jobs? 5%?

Here’s just a quick response to today’s Labour Herald story.

Hardly any of us ever use more than basic numeracy in our lives. I’d put it at no more than 5%. You don’t need ‘significant’ or ‘advanced’ mathematics even for computer coding.

There’s no shortage of people with mathematics and science degrees. There is a shortage of creative people and sadly people willing to do unskilled and caring jobs.

Here are some views from people who’ve studied this more than I have. Mind you, in thirty-five years as a school teacher, education lecturer, senior lecturer, head of department, Associate Dean, Acting Dean and professor, I never ever needed Geometry or Algebra. I don’t need it check my pension either. I did need to use spreadsheets with averages and percentages but you can teach most 11 year-olds that.

It’s not just my opinion that the above is a big fat myth.

The second question is more fundamental: How much math do you really need in everyday life? Ask yourself that — and also the next 10 people you meet, say, your plumber, your lawyer, your grocer, your mechanic, your physician or even a math teacher. Unlike literature, history, politics and music, math has little relevance to everyday life. That courses such as “Quantitative Reasoning” improve critical thinking is an unsubstantiated myth. All the mathematics one needs in real life can be learned in early years without much fuss. Most adults have no contact with math at work, nor do they curl up with an algebra book for relaxation.

Mathematician G. V. Ramanathan (2010) in: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/22/AR2010102205451.html

‘Aren’t Algebra and Geometry essential skills? The number of people who use either in their jobs is tiny, at most 5%.’

Andrew Hacker, The Math Myth, (2016) in: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/education/edlife/who-needs-advanced-math-not-everybody.html?_r=0

Math Is Not Necessary for Software Development’

Ross Hunter (2014) in: https://www.mutuallyhuman.com/blog/2014/01/14/math-is-not-necessary-for-software-development/

Go on; contradict me with any real evidence.


6 thoughts on “3.8% of pupils failing to achieve “significant” mathematics qualifications, according to the Scottish Labour Party. So what? How many of us need them in our jobs? 5%?

  1. Clydebuilt December 30, 2016 / 12:00 am

    John check out http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00501962.pdf. Section 3 table 7. “Leaver Attainment in Literacy &Numeracy by SCQF Level years 12/13 to 14/15. There is no mathematics (no algebra or Trigonometry) involved just numeracy …… So Iain Gray didn’t even get tge subject correct.


  2. broadbield December 30, 2016 / 8:05 am

    Might I suggest that more important than ” ‘significant’ or ‘advanced’ mathematics” qualifications is an understanding of the use and abuse of statistics and some of the key concepts such as “significance”, SE’s, sampling, probability etc?

    CB: Perhaps Mr Gray didn’t get a “significant” qualification in Reading?


    • Clydebuilt December 30, 2016 / 11:31 am

      BB yes poor old Mr. Gray, not the sharpest tool in the box, mind you the rest of Dugdale’s gang aren’t any better…… Think he was a Physics and MATHS teacher, (unbelievable ) and advisor to Alistair Dhaling, don’t think leading the Red Tories against Salmond at FMQ’s did him any good.


      • johnrobertson834 December 30, 2016 / 3:04 pm

        Assumed he taught English and Drama he’s so charismatic.


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