Making mathematics compulsory for everyone up to the age of 18: That’s a serious idea from the British Prime Minister. The skills you learn on this course are “more important than ever,” he says. Because, according to him, we live in a world that is “all about data” and where knowledge of statistics is “essential for every job.” He believes that you cannot send children into the world without the skills you acquire in mathematics.
People in England don’t seem excited right away. In the Netherlands too, not everyone will be comfortable with this. Some students do everything they can to get as little math as possible.
Profiles have been fixed
In England, about half of all 16-19 year olds study mathematics. “With us in the Netherlands, this percentage is much higher,” says mathematics teacher Marco ten Hof.
Mathematics is compulsory for pre-university education students in the Netherlands. Havists can drop math if they choose the Culture and Society (C&M) profile. In pre-professional secondary education, mathematics is an elective subject for many profiles. “That will change, because all these profiles will be fixed,” says Ten Hof. “It’s about making some kind of math or arithmetic compulsory for everyone. In havo c&m, students also receive a math test that the school takes.”
“Basic model calculation is important”
Anita Smit is a mathematics teacher at VMBO in Almere. In the words of the British Prime Minister, she mainly sees the point of view of a highly educated person.
“There are a lot of jobs out there that have absolutely nothing to do with data and statistics,” she says. Basic math is important. But studying the exact subject of mathematics until the age of 18? She doesn’t think it’s necessary anymore.
“In Holland, I certainly didn’t think that was a good plan. Calculations are, math is not. Sometimes it would be good for my students to stop math early. Why should everyone be able to calculate with trig the ratios of sine, cosine, and tan?” We need people in healthcare, education, police, etc. This knowledge is not necessarily relevant to that. Basic skills are important.”
Afraid of numbers
In the Netherlands we are still doing quite well, although maths teacher Ten Hof thinks there is room for improvement. In particular, he believes that more attention should be paid to statistics. Also to determine if certain claims in the media make sense. “Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that many students are afraid of numbers. We really need to get rid of that.”
Eberina Smaleganj, a pre-professional mathematics teacher in Betwe and president of the Dutch Association of Mathematics Teachers, agrees with this opinion. “In nurturing and nurturing, students really hate math,” she says. These are students who want to become hairdressers, for example. Its job is to get students excited about the subject. You do this, for example, with amounts related to hair dye.
But isn’t it an impossible task? A student who doesn’t understand an amount suddenly won’t understand it with the twenty explanation either. “It shouldn’t be too much for you,” Smallganj admits. “The advantage of mathematics is that you can present it in different forms. If your mathematics subject matches the profile of the students, it is possible to present it to everyone. It also gives students more self-confidence.”
So things are going really well, but there is “definitely profit to be made”. “Certainly with a large group of VMBO students. You have to introduce them to a form of mathematical arithmetic that they can handle. We really have to get rid of the idea that everything is complicated with numbers. Mathematics can be introduced at almost any level.”
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