Maths lecturer Peter Hughes is right to be concerned that secondary school pupils are innumerate.
If you can’t count you can’t cope properly with many functions in every day life.
I’ve often quoted the witticism that there are three kinds of people in the world, those who can count and those who can’t and then said I’m one of the latter.
But I was always joking because although I wouldn’t even attempt complicated maths I’m of the generation where the basics were taught and I can still cope with them.
That means I can add, subtract, multiply and divide, understand rounding, compound interest, fractions and percentages and the other concepts which we need every day.
It doesn’t mean I always get the sums right, but it means I usually realise when I’ve got them wrong and can work out why.
It’s no use saying we don’t need the basics when we have calculators, unless you have a general idea of what the answer is you can have no idea if you’ve made a mistake.
If you can’t do the basics you’re at sea when you shop because you can’t compare prices properly and have no idea if there’s a gross error in the total you’re charged.
If you can’t do the basics of maths you’ll never cope with finance and as Huges says you’re then at risk of getting “bluechipped” .
If you can’t do the basics of maths you’re worse off than if you can’t spell. If you get the odd letter wrong when writing you can still get your message across. But a minor error with a number can be a major mistake.
If you follow the link above you can try your mental maths skills. I ‘ll confess I got only 4/5 – because I made a silly mistake which goes to show even when you know the basics, it pays to check your calculations.
P.S. Kathryn Ryan interviewed Hughes on Nine to Noon this morning.