Saturday 18 November 2017

Aine O'Connor: Maths just does not add up

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Aine O'Connor

It's not that I have anything in particular against maths, but beyond the four basic mathematical skills and some percentages, maths is a special interest subject and has no place in the general education system. Actually, I'd go so far as to posit that most of the stuff we're feeding kids has no place in the general education system.

"Ah, but algebra is beautiful," a friend said with a misty eye. And therein lies the rub. To him algebra is a source of beauty, it makes sense. To me it was years of torment, a topic in a subject I found difficult and undermining. The adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying, lovely, they have defo come in handy. But theorems? Quadratic functions? Bleeeeeding algebra? An utter waste of my time. Time that could have been spent learning, perfecting things I was actually interested in, good at. Time that could have been spent taking people who do find beauty in maths to dizzy arithmetical, trigonometric and algebraic heights unfettered by those of us who hated it.

Maths is just an example, any subject is the same. Obviously you have to study something to a certain point to realise if you're interested or talented, but beyond that point why do we insist on this daft array of subjects? You're no good at it? You don't like it? It will be of zero use to you in the future? Tough. Oh and you're at an age where the world is uncertain and your self-confidence fragile? Well, instead of letting you blossom getting good at something you enjoy, let's force you to struggle publicly with something you hate and are crap at because that's going to do you the power of good. It also undermines the fine art of teaching. How soul-destroying must it be to have to teach your beloved subject to people who simply could not care less?

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