Numeracy Campaign Targets British Math Drop Out Rate

Schoolchildren in the UK are less likely to study math beyond the age of 16 than most other developed countries — and it’s because of the way math is taught, claims an academic.

Professor Stephen Sparks believes that the test-driven way math is taught in British schools is putting many young off from taking the subject beyond secondary school. But the leading academic has called for the majority of pupils to study math up to the age of 18, writes Graeme Paton at the Telegraph.

He said that the way the subject is taught in schools today is putting students off because of their often dry tone and focus on “procedures” behind sums that just dictate on how to pass exams rather than providing a well-rounded understanding of the subject.

Recent research has found that only one in eight teenagers study math beyond GCSE in the UK. This statistic is causing the country to lag behind developed peers who are seeing between 50 and 100 per cent of teenagers in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Japan and Korea, study math to a decent level.

And in response to the numbers, Professor Sparks, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME), said that the damning statistic “puts us at a real anomaly internationally and likely affects our economic competitiveness”.

Sparks has called for more students to study math up to the age of 18. He has also called for more tailored courses “between a GCSE and A-level” for those students who need them.

“The reason some people are being put off maths is related to that issue of teaching to the test,” he said.

“Schools are given a big incentive to make sure pupils pass tests, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they get the well-rounded understanding that a good education requires.”

This comes as the Telegraph have launched the Make Britain Count campaign, a movement which looks to boost the number of pupils taking math by highlighting the scale of the crisis that the subject is currently facing.

“The campaign aims to provide parents with tools to boost their children’s numeracy,” writes Paton.

The statistics have come via the Nuffield Foundation, who compared the number of pupils studying advanced math in 24 developed countries.

And while around a quarter of students took A-levels in math in the UK, in almost every other nation, more than half of pupils took advanced math courses.

In line with Sparks’ proposal, eight countries including South Korea, Russia, Sweden and Taiwan have made it compulsory to study the subject until the age of 18.