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Sometimes it is considered cool to hate maths, and to treat it as an insurmountable obstacle – something that is difficult, and useless, so why bother?
I would like to explain here just a few of the reasons why I believe maths to be important, and worth mastering:
Numeracy is part of everyday life
Hopefully we can all agree that money matters. Changing currency, shopping, buying a house, buying a car, using credit cards, taking out loans – all these activities are part of life, and studies show that too many people are losing money because they don’t understand how much they are paying for things! We trust companies not to take advantage of us – but isn’t that naive?
Recent scandals in the banking sector only serve to highlight how vulnerable we are. High-interest loans are becoming more prevalent; without sound maths skills, we cannot possibly compare mortgages, loans and other financial products to work out which ones offer us a good deal and which ones are to be avoided.
Mathematics opens doors to many careers
There is an argument. often used by the students themselves, to say that the higher skills in GCSE maths, such as algebra, trigonometry, etc, while being an essential grounding for anyone who wants to go on to a career in maths and sciences, are irrelevant if there is no intention to take maths or science at A level. I have mixed feelings about this – while there is admittedly some truth in the idea that some GCSE topics are irrelevant in everyday life, who should decide whether a child, not yet even 16 years old, should be ruled out from a future in engineering? Or medicine? Or banking?
Many of the high-powered, high income careers in life are only open to people with good to excellent maths skills. See the Guardian Newspaper Best Paying Jobs of 2012 for evidence of this, or The 10 Best Jobs of 2012 by CareerCast. Alternatively, look at the Maths Careers website to see what career opportunities are available to those with good maths qualifications.
Higher mathematics teaches important life skills
In addition to this, it is worth noting that highly desirable skills, such as the ability to reason methodically, and present your argument constructively, develop from maths, which encourages students to structure their thoughts and present their working out clearly.
Mathematics is an essential qualification
Ultimately, even after all these points, it is clear that a good GCSE in Mathematics is a requirement for most jobs, and certainly for most Further Education courses. Many University courses are dependent on maths results. [See the Informed Choices publication by the Russell Group]. Isn’t that reason enough to take it seriously?