Category Archives: Maths Education

Countdown to 2015

By Zoe Baker, Maths Heaven Online Tutor

In anticipation of the A Level and GCSE Maths results due in the next few weeks, I felt it pertinent to read Carol Vorderman’s report as commissioned by Michael Gove and David Cameron under the opposition Conservative Party in 2009.

Counting on an abacus... a lost art, I feel.

Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To be fair, I know why Carol is the choice of the Conservative party. She demonstrated her aptitude in mental arithmetic in front of the unemployed nation for 25 years. She spent a considerable period (ten years) sandwiched into the Channel 4 programming schedules, as the face of First Plus; attracting customers to the ethically questionable debt consolidation scheme. She’s been the face of several publications in Maths, English and Science. She’s also written some best-selling titles on detox dieting. Scrub that last one, I have no idea why that would help. But she is lovely, though, isn’t she?

It’s an interesting thought. First Plus knew how to select somebody for their marketing campaign who represents maths to the general public: somebody whose image is engrained within the public psyche, and unquestionably much more clever than most of yow; preferably somebody with a fantastic arse (who is freely available to attend promotional events). I challenge anybody to name somebody in the public eye who represents maths in a more effective way. Carol Vorderman’s lack of educational qualification or teaching experience at this point is less important in her role as chair; she is clearly the outward face of “maths” to the UK audience; the façade behind which the mathematics academics are hiding in order to facilitate mathematics educational reform.

Despite this, plenty of people have questioned Vorderman’s ability to chair the task force. But it is pretty short sighted to suggest that a civil engineering graduate could not be a representative of maths or numeracy. But I would say that. I’m biased.

But I do question Vorderman’s objectivity as a government advisor. She is currently fronting her own maths website (www.themathsfactor.com) which is selling subscriptions to parents aimed at children of primary school age. I have my own opinion about the product being touted, but I’ll save that for another time.

If you’re responsible for a commercial product that helps primary school children “get ahead” in maths, then your role as a voluntary government advisor in mathematics education (for a specific political party) is compromised. As much as I welcome many of the findings of the report, it is a travesty that Carol Vorderman is fronting it. Of course it’s voluntary! This is a PR campaign to die for; plenty of opportunities for Carol to do the rounds on the national media just before the results come out; plenty of controversy over educational standards; lots of harrumphing and excuses to call for “back to basics”. Those parents who actually give a toss would likely be concerned about their child’s maths learning – to the internet to read that report! Google “Carol Vorderman maths”… what do you notice?

Zoe Baker is Managing Director of www.MathsHeaven.co.uk and is a Functional Maths Lecturer in an FE College in Hampshire.

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Welcome to Maths Heaven

You don’t have to love maths to be here… in fact this isn’t designed to be a place for maths-lovers, it’s for all of us out there who just get by with numbers by the skin of our teeth.

I’m Zoe, and I am the Functional Maths Coordinating Lecturer at a large Further Education college in Hampshire.  I’m currently completing a full time MA in Interactive Media at Southampton Solent University, mainly because I wanted to build Maths Heaven and use it to offer maths advice, resources and online tutoring services to anybody who needs it.

Maths is not the most popular school subject – in fact, many people would say it is their least favourite subject.  And in fact, people in the UK, the US and other English speaking countries seem to love to hate maths and we are happy to proclaim it, sometimes quite openly.  But why?  Why is maths such a problem?  Over the next few weeks I’m going to be trawling the web to see if I can find out what makes people reject maths so openly, and see if there are any resources out there that could help to change our negative view of maths and numeracy.

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