The New Scientist recently published a response by Caroline Wallace, LMS Executive Secretary, on Michael Brooks’ article on ‘maths anxiety’ among school students. The response is below and you can read the original article here.
Maths is a marvel full of universal truths
Published 29 December 2021
From Caroline Wallace, London Mathematical Society
I share Michael Brooks’s concerns about low levels of numeracy and high levels of “maths anxiety” (27 November 2021, p 25). But I don’t think the solution simply lies in a “more utilitarian approach” to the subject. This would risk taking the wonder and imagination out of maths, which is what inspires people to keep studying it and pushing back the frontiers of our understanding.
The value of maths to society is clear. Not only have discoveries in it led, for centuries, to applications and achievements in every area of science and technology, but it is also an inherently valuable part of our shared human experience. What’s more, its insights and discoveries don’t just apply through time, but through space too. The same maths truths apply on the other side of the universe, just as they do on Earth.
Ensuring that the pipeline of maths talent remains healthy is why the London Mathematical Society set up the Protect Pure Maths campaign last year. This seeks to ensure that university maths departments get the funding they need and society gets the maths graduates necessary to flourish – and to help the next generation of learners avoid maths anxiety.
Asking whether maths belongs with the sciences or humanities may be a provocative and fun diversion, but the subject faces serious challenges around funding and perception. Our campaign exists to make the case for maths. We would welcome Brooks as a supporter.