June 28th, 2008


Maths is a langwidge

Another shock horror story about declining exam standards in today’s Telegraph. Apparently, it’s possible to pass GCSE maths by getting only 20% of the answers right. I have every sympathy with the candidates. The discovery that I’d passed O-Level maths and would never, ever have to do maths again was one of the happiest moments of my life. If, as Molesworth’s teachers opined, ‘maths is a langwidge’, how come I could do French, Latin and German but not maths? I was good at sums, as shown by this little book my mother preserved from the time I was six.

She also kept the school entrance test she had to do at eleven:

Yikes! Multiply 568 by 397. Use your answer to find 569x397. No calculators in 1935.

At one time I volunteered to teach adult literacy and was horrified to be asked to take on a numeracy student. I swear I learned more about numbers during that time than in all my years at school and what’s more, my student passed her exam; I don’t know which of us was more thrilled. I must be numerate but I still class myself as a person who can't do maths and I wonder how I'd get on with that GCSE exam?