Mathematics in Crisis

Monday 22 January 2007 at 11:54 pm | In Articles | 3 Comments

Those of us who live and work in the UK are worried about the crisis in mathematics in this country, both in schools and universities. It appears that there are similar problems in Australia as described in Mathematics dying on the vine in Australian universities. As Alexandre Borovik of Mathematics under the Microscope, who pointed me to the post, says (well almost, I’ve slightly altered what he wrote)

    We continue to underestimate the gravity of the crisis of mathematical, and, more generally, scientific education [in] Western civilization.

So the question is What are we going to do about it?


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  1. What can we do ? What you do with your blog for example! Thank you for all these excellent informations.

    Comment by Bernard Vuilleumier — Tuesday 23 January 2007 7:25 am #

  2. What are we going to do about it? Nothing.The West is saved by globalisation: more dynamic industrial countries of the East still teach mathematics, and moreover, want to teach it in English. See the post “Teachers still refuse to teach Science, Mathematics in English”,, about the ETeMS (English for the Teaching of Maths and Science) programme in Malaysia.

    The crisis of mathematics is caused by deepening division of labour in modern economy. This division of labour can — and will — be international, at least for a time being, until the unsustainability of narrowing social base of mathematical education hits Eastern Tigers, too.

    Comment by Alexandre Borovik — Tuesday 23 January 2007 9:55 am #

  3. I think we should be worried about the education in general in the UK, even compared to our European counterparts. Until a government makes Education one of it’s principal target, and implements measures which will improve general knowledge and standards universally we will be stuck with a variation in standards across the UK. The new city academies are a step forward however this privatisation of the education market is worrying! History shows that the best education is drawn out of nationalised/standardised education systems. Also why do we need 3+ examination boards?! There seems to be a lot more importance lately into Arts, IT, Drama and other such subjects at an earlier stage in youth schooling. It seems like educational authorities need to re-emphasise “proper” education i.e in terms of English, Mathematics and Sciences. I’m sorry but gaining an A* in English at GCSE (which I took and got) does not mean you can write and communicate clearly in English to an acceptable standard. And Alevel maths provides a sub-subsistence level in terms of mathematical grounding. And the IB if a little improvement is still a rather poor qualification relative to the French bac, European Bac, Russian, Scandinavia (which has a very good rating system, the maths is somewhat too applied but still requires a strong grasp from students),Other Eastern European Stats, and I’m sure Asian qualification (which I’m not familiar with).

    Comment by William M — Friday 13 April 2007 5:39 pm #

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