All subjects are important in the curriculum: but maths is one of the most crucial to success in later life. With the exception of English, what other subject to do you use every single day in our lives?
The government has recognised this and want to encourage more students to carry on doing maths at post-16 level. At secondary school level, they are trying to offer the additional mechanics qualification for students in year 9 and above. This is equivalent to an A level and is quite computer-based. As well as offering traditional Maths and Further Maths qualifications (which are to be tightened up academically), the government is also preparing a so-called 'M' level which is supposed to be somewhere in-between GCSE and As Level. Hopefully this will encourage pupils to do more maths as they might not be put off as much. So what exactly puts them off?
Some might say it is the content itself, and how it is seen as "not appealing", but the real barrier to achievement in maths is often the wording of the questions: so, in roundabout way, literacy skills are a barrier to maths progression. However once a few simple concepts have been learnt, that jargon-filled world of maths becomes easier to understand.
I currently study maths teaching at University and the maths we have done is not particularly advanced but extremely interesting: we have learnt about the history of maths and how things are inherent in everyday life such as the golden ratio (roughly 1:1.6) which is supposed to be in everything from buildings to art (like the Mona Lisa) and objects in this ratio often look aesthetically pleasing and nice to look at. There is also the normal distribution, a bell shaped frequency curve which most things in life conform to such as IQ scores, dice rolls and cards. It is so interesting and there are so many different routes of maths to explore, particularly at Degree Level such as statistics, data handling and historical topics. For instance, the reason why there is 360 degrees in a circle- the Babylonians observed that it took the sun 360 days to complete a full circle. Or that most of probability comes from rich French men playing cards.
One of the most important reasons to go for a maths degree or post-16 though is the employment benefits. In an era where many adults are embarrassed by their maths skills and employers value good maths ability as being so important, a maths-orientated degree can really set you apart from the crowd. It is not just at degree level these benefits can be felt though- studies have shown that, compared to pupils who achieved a D at their Maths GCSE, grade C pupils earned on average £150,000 more in their lifetime. That is a lot of cash! There are a lot of routes to go down with maths at University - Engineering, maths teaching, pure maths, statistics, mechanics, sports science and even nursing courses all require an element of maths.
Even if you do not wish to study a degree that is maths-orientated, you will need to have a good maths knowledge (GCSE grade C or above) to go to college and university and function properly in life and employment. Maths truly is all around us and this is why it may be a good idea to study maths further after GCSE, particularly now the new 'M' level qualification has been introduced. If you work hard at your maths, the rewards in employment and life will be rich.
Sam Curran is a second year student at the Lancaster campus of the University of Cumbria. He is training to be a secondary maths teacher and has worked in schools on numerous work and volunteer placements as a teacher and teaching assistant.