Maths in Schools

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STEVIEBOY1

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It has just been announced that school children are not skilled in maths in school these days. I can't help but wonder why they seem so surprised as children have been allowed to use decimal calculators in lessons and only recently this practice is being reduced or stopped.

Do they no longer have mental arithmatic tests? which we had on a weekly basis when I was at junior and secondary school and if one did not get at least 75 per cent correct, you had to stay in after school for extra tuition.

Decimal calculators were just coming out when I was at school and we certainly were not allowed to use them, if we did and got caught, we were given detentions to do the lesson again, plus had to write out lines.

How things have changed, mind you I do think the teachers now have far too much paperwork to deal with etc rather devote most of their time to teach the children which is not their fault, but the way the education system is these days. I did not like school when I was there in the 1960s and 1970s, but I think it was better then in many ways than it is now.
 
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NSEFAN

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It depends what kind of maths is being failed. Not everyone needs to be able to solve equations and use trigonometry in their daily lives. If someone can't even do simple arithmetic, then that's more of a problem.

That said, we now have machines to do a lot of number crunching for us, so being able to do mental arithmetic quickly is somewhat redundant. Times tables also suffer from the same problem; they were very helpful when we had pounds-shillings-pence, but now everything is in multiples of 10.
 

ACE1888

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My Youngest son is off to Senior school in September, we had a choice of two, my old school, and the other one in our town, we did the Parents Tour of both, but after talking to the Maths teacher at my old school (who, with respect, was probably the most boring person I've met recently:roll:), it put me off Maths and the school completely! It was all about 'algebra' (which in my opinion, at the time was, and still is pointless generally in EVERYDAY life) and now like previously mentioned, it's all about calculators and anything bar using you brain to think. Sometimes things always don't change for the best...
 

Bungle73

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I was allowed to use an electronic calculator (what's a "decimal calculator"?) at school, at least in the later years (this was in the '80s); but only to work out stuff we already knew how do, which was part of a more complex question.

Oh, and also for trigonometry, which you cannot do without a calculator.

I don't a problem with that.
 
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Butts

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I have been doing an Access Course which includes Maths and I'd forgotten how much I loved it <D

One strange aspect of the process is that a lot of the younger class members have to use calculators even for the simplest calculations.

Arithmetic is useful but the rest is just a test of problem solving without any practical use for most people.

A hoop I have to jump through :p
 

SS4

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I was allowed to use an electronic calculator (what's a "decimal calculator"?) at school, at least in the later years (this was in the '80s); but only to work out stuff we already knew how do, which was part of a more complex question.

Oh, and also for trigonometry, which you cannot do without a calculator.

I don't a problem with that.
What about your 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 triangles ;).

What is a decimal calculator? When I was at school graphics calculators were the height of technology although scientific calculators (which show vulgar fractions and surds without rounding) were relatively common. I'd have loved something like WolframAlpha when I was in school though.

Calculators seem to be taking unwarranted flak, like all computers they do what they're told to do and nothing more. Calculators should not be a substitute for mental arithmetic at the simplest level but there is nothing wrong with their usage as solving difficult calculations.
I also enjoy trying the numbers games on Countdown :D

[youtube]pfa3MHLLSWI[/youtube]
 

anthony263

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I did struggle a bit with maths at school although counting money etc I can do no problem without a calculator. I do sometimes think teaches rush to teach the students and dont pay enough time to those who are struggling and in a lot of cases it is something simple such as with me where my problem was that I made 1 slight miscalculation
 

MidnightFlyer

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When I was doing GCSE Maths about two years ago, it was very focussed on passing exams, not setting you up for how to use it in life. Same for most of high school to be honest. How I came out with an A* is beyond me.
 

Nym

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Oh, and also for trigonometry, which you cannot do without a calculator.
Yes you can, this is why the good lord gave us log tables.

When I was doing GCSE Maths about two years ago, it was very focussed on passing exams, not setting you up for how to use it in life. Same for most of high school to be honest. How I came out with an A* is beyond me.
This was starting to be the case when I did GCSE Maths, they don't seem to actually teach you how to do anything any more.

It depends what kind of maths is being failed. Not everyone needs to be able to solve equations and use trigonometry in their daily lives. If someone can't even do simple arithmetic, then that's more of a problem.
If one does not learn the logic of how to minipulate variables in equations, a lot of further consepts, not only in Mathematics, Science and Engineering, but a lot of aspects that apply in daily life will start to puzzle the population. Such as some of the very basic consepts of collation of groups, if one doesn't know this, some things will be very challenging.
That said, we now have machines to do a lot of number crunching for us, so being able to do mental arithmetic quickly is somewhat redundant. Times tables also suffer from the same problem; they were very helpful when we had pounds-shillings-pence, but now everything is in multiples of 10.
If you don't know how the machine crunches the numbers, or at least what the result should look like, then when someone's finger slips inputting the number, the mistake will not be noticed and it will cost money. Quick arythmatic is never going to be redundant, if you can't add, subtract, multiply and divide, god help us.

Don't start me on how one can think 'times tables are not useful' it has sod all to do with £/s-d and yd/ft/in since this is more a base of units problem rather than a times tables problem. And not everything is in multiples of 10, far from it. "How much do these seven drinks cost if one costs this?" is that a multiple of 10, no...

Then it comes to the point of those who are going into higher levels of mathematics, engineering etc. I have known students not be able to spot a very simple inverse laplace transform from tables because the're unable to solve arytmetic calculations without a calculator, and thus have a great deal of difficulty in spotting patterns. Also a problem that is putting off employers these days who are increasingly using phycometric testing, such as FastTrak that does not require any complex mathematics, but the arethmetic and analysis skills one gains by completing arythetic problems without the use of any calculators.

If someone doesn't know what 25 + 36 is without a calculator then we're going to see problems, let alone if I started speaking in terms of different units and outside of base 10. (it's 61 by the way...)

If I asked someone in this forum to add up 143 inches, 3 yards and a chain, I wonder how many people could tell me how many feet that is in total... (This ISN'T hard!) but if you don't have arythmetic skills that are very simple to know, it will be very hard. If these are no longer being taught in schools, when will they learn this?
 

Bungle73

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Yes you can, this is why the good lord gave us log tables.
Log tables? This is the 21st century. I've never even used one. I wouldn't even know what one looked like. And if I did I wouldn't know how to use one.
If I asked someone in this forum to add up 143 inches, 3 yards and a chain, I wonder how many people could tell me how many feet that is in total... (This ISN'T hard!) but if you don't have arythmetic skills that are very simple to know, it will be very hard. If these are no longer being taught in schools, when will they learn this?
I couldn't....but only because I have no idea how inches, yards, chains and feet relate to each other.
 

Nym

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Oh and for those who says tables are a dead form thanks to calculators...

This is what I have used in the last 4 weeks...

Table of Triganometric Identies
Table of Power Series
Table of Laplace Transforms
And last but not least...
Gausian Distribution...
 

ainsworth74

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If I asked someone in this forum to add up 143 inches, 3 yards and a chain, I wonder how many people could tell me how many feet that is in total... (This ISN'T hard!) but if you don't have arythmetic skills that are very simple to know, it will be very hard. If these are no longer being taught in schools, when will they learn this?
Why on earth would someone need to know how to add up inches, feet, yards and chains!? That's like saying people should know how to add up pounds, shillings and pence. We're a metric country for most things and certainly when working with detail distances like inches and feet these days we use millimetres, centimetres and metres. This reminds me of when the media were lambasting the fact that kids today couldn't do an 11plus exam from the 1960s, perhaps failing to note that a big part of the exam involved working with measures that those kids had never used (and why would they)!

Also in answer to your question I think that's about 86 feet, ish. Or in normal measures about 26 metres.
 

Nym

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Also in answer to your question I think that's about 86 feet, ish. Or in normal measures about 26 metres.
Chain = 22ft
Chain = 22yd = 66ft (Thanks Zoe, was wondering how long that would take...)
Yard = 3ft 3yd = 9ft
144inches = 12ft 143in = 11'11"...

42ft11in... (Dear god we're doomed... Dooooommmeeeddd...)
86'11"...

Also, Railways run in these units of measurement, as do a lot of rotating shaft systems.

We may well produce stuff in metric now, but not everything is metric (Electronics still uses thou, inches and feet) one doesn't need to be able to work with legacy measurements all the time but needs to be aware of how to work with them.

It's also proving the point of knowing how to arethmetically solve a problem that isn't handed to you on a plate of how to solve it, this can draw paralells into all area of life, everyone expects the answers to be handed to them on a plate and just have to put it in a calculator nowerdays, life isn't like that and school shouldn't reflect the image of having all calculations being easy.

How many people you think get stumpted by the idea of rotational velocity vice rpm, both used in common measurement because the're used to having one unit for everything. Or even having different measurements of power...

Oh and PS: Hours, Minutes, Seconds.... Not everything is decimalised sweetie...
 
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Badger

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Inches, yards, and other imperial measurements - are the reason calculators and conversion charts exist. It's pointless learning legacy measurements in school, and that's the point of the switch to metric. We don't need to know how to use them without a calculator or chart, or rather shouldn't.

When I was at school everyone left with at least level 3 SATS. That implies basic mental arithmacy and reading skills. (Level 3 was "pass" I guess, level 5 was top) When I got into High School and we had to mentor the new kids, it was shocking how appalling most of their literacy and numeracy was.

...I'm sorry but if a year 7 student can't read the word "road" there is something seriously wrong.

We had a mental arithmetic, maths, and maths (calculator) paper at the end of Year 6. At the end of Year 9 we had the same, I think, but there was always a calculator paper and non-calculator paper.

Kids do need to know how to use a calculator, but they also need to know mental arithmetic...
 

WestCoast

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Chain = 22ft
Yard = 3ft 3yd = 9ft
144inches = 12ft 143in = 11'11"...

42ft11in... (Dear god we're doomed... Dooooommmeeeddd...)

Also, Railways run in these units of measurement, as do a lot of rotating shaft systems.

We may well produce stuff in metric now, but not everything is metric (Electronics still uses thou, inches and feet) one doesn't need to be able to work with legacy measurements all the time but needs to be aware of how to work with them.
In many countries (especially in Europe), knowing how to add up feet, inches and chains is utterly useless. Heck, the road signs in the Republic of Ireland are now in Kilometres!
 

Nym

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In many countries (especially in Europe), knowing how to add up feet, inches and chains is utterly useless. Heck, the road signs in the Republic of Ireland are now in Kilometres!
Please, read the next paragraph in that post and take heed of it before you say that the exercise of providing that problem is completely useless...

It's also proving the point of knowing how to arethmetically solve a problem that isn't handed to you on a plate of how to solve it, this can draw paralells into all area of life, everyone expects the answers to be handed to them on a plate and just have to put it in a calculator nowerdays, life isn't like that and school shouldn't reflect the image of having all calculations being easy.
 

37372

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Learning miles and chains would be very useful if you ended up using such methods to log your rail mileage ;)

I used to laugh at "pointless" things like trigonometry but imagine my horror when I realised I had to use it at work the other week!
 

WestCoast

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Please, read the next paragraph in that post and take heed of it before you say that the exercise of providing that problem is completely useless...
The thing is schools don't actually teach imperial measurements nowadays - so if the population isn't taught to use such measurements, how can they be expected to do sums like that?

I understand that basic arithmetic is very important, but this is about the use of imperial measurements. Outside the UK, certain countries were metricised over 100 years ago - knowing imperial measurements for daily life purposes would be of very little use in those places.
 

SS4

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If I asked someone in this forum to add up 143 inches, 3 yards and a chain, I wonder how many people could tell me how many feet that is in total... (This ISN'T hard!) but if you don't have arythmetic skills that are very simple to know, it will be very hard. If these are no longer being taught in schools, when will they learn this?
Honestly? They won't need to and employers need to recognise this instead of moaning that out of date units are no longer being taught. How many jobs use Imperial in their day to day lives? Not all that many I'd imagine.

How much does 1 stone weigh? How much does 1 kilogram weigh*?

*Weight as it should be used
 

Oswyntail

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I agree with Nym about learning what is needed for the practical everyday world (even if he got chains wrong and his spelling can go a tad awry ;)). However, I do believe there should be a sensible level of numeracy (and literacy, scientific knowledge and cultural appreciation) set to enable citizens to cope with the world effectively - and, beyond that level, no one should be compelled to venture unless they want to. Nym is absolutely right - if you have no idea what general area of result is expected from a calculation on a machine you will also have no idea if the calculation is correct. However, there is absolutely no requirement for the majority of the population to understand computing, engineering, physics, law, history etc etc.
The one resource this country is still desperately short of is good generalist managers.
 

Nym

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1 stone weight 1 stone at sea level at the equator, 1 kilogram weighs an appropriate amount of Newtons depending on where you are to this extremely long equation that I'm not going to post.

And for fear of this being reported, is no-one realising that I'm not actually on about the imperial measurment system here but THIS:
It's also proving the point of knowing how to arethmetically solve a problem that isn't handed to you on a plate of how to solve it, this can draw paralells into all area of life, everyone expects the answers to be handed to them on a plate and just have to put it in a calculator nowerdays, life isn't like that and school shouldn't reflect the image of having all calculations being easy.
That everyone is forgetting to read properly...

It's not just about Imperial measurments, it's about the loss of problem solving skills by answers being provided on a plate all the time, jeezzz, I can't infer anything in this forum without having to spell it out!
 

WestCoast

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That everyone is forgetting to read properly...

It's not just about Imperial measurments, it's about the loss of problem solving skills by answers being provided on a plate all the time, jeezzz, I can't infer anything in this forum without having to spell it out!
I've read it and I get it, you don't need to patronise us! Surely there are other ways of developing sharp mathematical problem solving skills other than involving imperial measurements? It doesn't have to be handed on a plate just because the measurements are metric!

You inferred that it was terrible that people in general couldn't work with imperial measurements these days, which some objected to. I can't imagine that people working with numbers in fully metricised areas (a very large number of countries) would agree with that either. I've no doubt that working with imperial and metric challenges the mind, but if people aren't given basic teaching about it, then it's a bit silly to turn around and dish out criticism. Primary school kids aren't university students - they need spoon fed teaching at an early age to instill the basic rules and methods of numeracy and literacy to be built on individually and independently later in life..

I realise that the railways are not metric, but that's the mish-mash of systems that exists in the UK. Perhaps it's wise to reintroduce imperial teaching in schools if this is to continue? It's all about education - or lack of it in some areas of learning. This thread is about schools after all! The UK has a strange mix of measurements, which you don't find elsewhere (major exception being the US, which is almost fully imperial, still different to the UK).
 
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