The Importance of Statistical Literacy

Dick Evans reports on efforts to improve statistical literacy amongst the population. It is now an unquestioned and accepted fact of life that we live in a world dominated by science and technology and that this inevitably requires a workforce and members of society in general to be more scientifically literate and numerate. Employees are required to possess higher levels of the basic skills of literacy, numeracy and a greater capability in the use of IT. This is coupled with the wider skills for employability namely: team working, problem solving and managing their own learning and development. People leaving education

Mathematics – Why the Problem?

Dick Evans bemoans the negative attitudes towards mathematics that persist in British culture A great quote – ‘Nature talks to us in mathematics’ – Richard Feynman There have been a number of developments following the publication of my article in the September edition of Numeracy Briefing. Some people responded agreeing with many of the issues highlighted in the piece whilst others disagreed with the arguments. Recent announcements about the closure of the physics department at Reading University and the close call for the closure of Chemistry at Sussex have re-ignited the debate about the ongoing crisis in the state of

Functional Mathematics – a Possible Solution?

Dick Evans is concerned that functional maths will go the way of so many other initiatives in mathematics A new term has appeared on the educational landscape namely functional mathematics. But has it been used before? Will it require a set of unique and radical solutions? I ask these important questions having witnessed a series of worthy reforms in the past which have inevitably regressed into narrow incremental tinkering with existing approaches and subjected to political dogma and interference. One immediate problem is how functional mathematics is defined. For example, is it the mathematics that all people need to participate


As a country, we’re not very good at Maths – Dick Evans explores some of the reasons for this and suggests how we “could do better”. It’s one of those national concerns that con tinues to attract press attention usually following critical inspection reports and is associated with the weak numeric skills possessed by students whether in school, college, university, employment or society in general. Whichever way you analyse the problem and its causes it is one of the most serious elements within the educational and training world. As the world becomes more scientifically and technologically based the underlying weakness


The UK’s poor performance in developing young people’s mathematical skills has been concerning for some time. In this article Dr Dick Evans explores the current state of play. Having written extensively about skills shortages over the past few years I would like to focus on a number of recent developments in one key area namely mathematics and numeracy. The importance of these subjects cannot be over emphasised not only as an intellectual pursuit in their own right but for their pivotal role in strategic subjects crucial for the economy such as science/engi-neering/technology/computing and indeed all elements of the workplace and

Reversing the Spiral of Decline

Dick Evans argues for a career-based curriculum A recent report (Smith 2004) has again highlighted the concerns about the state of mathematics and its teaching in schools. Questions continue to arise about its purpose and centrality in the national curriculum, in addition, concerns are being raised about the quality and quantity of students entering higher education to study courses that require mathematics. We live in a technological society based on maths and science, so it is perplexing that schools, colleges and universities continue to turn out students in large numbers who not only lack adequate numeracy skills but also constantly

Numeracy: The Key Basic Skill?

The responses to the Ofsted and the Adult Learners Inspectorate (ALI) report on basic skills (see issue 18 of Basic Skills Bulletin) reveal a very mixed reception for the progress of the ‘Skills for Life’ (SfL) programme. Many comments in the national press have pointed out that overall progress was limited considering the level of investment since the publication of the Moser report and the implementation of the national strategy. Reading the official Ofsted/ALI report and the comments in the press, it is often difficult to assess the true picture. The government and its various agencies congratulate themselves on the strategies

The Maths Problem

Dick Evans continues his analysis of training needs and skill shortages with a look at the world of numeracy. The Government has three distinct strands for its educational agenda, namely standards, skills and widening participation. A large number of reforms and initiatives continue to be introduced to realise these important elements of the wider agenda to develop a culture of lifelong learning and to raise the competitiveness of the workforce in this country. A number of these reforms and initiatives include: Reforms to the national curriculum, including more rigorous testing of pupils throughout their school lives. The introduction of programmes

Time for a Re-Think.

With concerns over society’s numeracy levels and the advent of new technology, Dick Evans calls for a major, wide-ranging inquiry into maths education. Recently, a number of reports have highlighted the continuing concern about mathematics education and the problems associated with the level of numeracy in school leavers and in members of society in general. Ongoing concern is voiced by employers and educationalists from all the sectors. Many reports, over many decades, have mapped out the possible causes and made innumerable recommendations to improve the situation. Sadly, in spite of all these laudable endeavours, nothing has happened and the concerns