Bollocks!

The English have given the world many great things: the Magna Carta, Shakespeare, and the miniskirt, to name just a few. But lately they've hit a dry spell, with Boy George, the Spice Girls, and Prince Charles, among other unfortunate contributions. Undercutting solid math teaching is Britannia's latest addition to this lackluster list: an ill-considered effort by some academics to remake "maths" instruction. For example, Paul Ernest, a professor of education at Essex University, says that math is not "neutral and value-free" but "human made, therefore culturally influenced." He continues: "We need to think of different ways of contextualizing maths to take multi-culturalism, racism, and sexism into account." And Andrew Hodges, who teaches math at Wadham College, Oxford, thinks that once the subject moves from the straightforward stuff into more complicated and abstract problems, it should no longer be compulsory. Perhaps learning, say, words over three syllables shouldn't be compulsory, either? One hopes this British innovation stays on its own side of the pond.

"Who needs maths?" by John Crace, The Guardian, November 13, 2007

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