[ASC-list] mathematics in the news

Joan Leach j.leach at uq.edu.au
Mon Jul 7 10:29:50 UTC 2008


Thank you, Regan, for bringing the recent Guardian article to our  
attention (for debate or otherwise!).

I'm quite interested in the arguments that are marshaled to support  
mathematics (in education or otherwise).  Simon Jenkins in _The  
Guardian_ article suggests a couple of reasons mathematics education  
is not that important. I'll summarise some of the 'biggies'.   First,  
most people do not need it (so he claims on various bits of evidence  
including finding classical languages of more use himself).  Second,  
he suggests an historical argument (from the Soviet Union) that more  
maths at the expense of other disciplines did the Soviets little  
good.  Third, he argues that arguments for mathematics are a cloaked  
conservatism (remember those fusty English professors who lobby for  
the canon?).  These arguments seem to me of various weights, but at  
least they are arguments.

So, let's hear (from Jan, perhaps?) some arguments for a robust maths  
curriculum.  Jenkins at least introduces one from the UK; a lack of  
mathematicians might have cost the UK 9 billion quid.

His argument that "students are clamouring for the humanities" seems  
quite anglocentric; there is little of that in Australia.

So, what does make Australia clever?  I'm not sure I've heard any  
arguments that mathematics will do it.  But, I'm willing to be  
persuaded...

Joan Leach



Dr Joan Leach
Editor, Social Epistemology
Convener, Science Communication Program
University of Queensland
School of English, Media Studies, and Art History
4th floor Michie Building
St. Lucia  QLD 4072
AUSTRALIA

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