I find it astonishing that the government has got Carol Vorderman to write a report on the state of mathematics education on the apparent basis that she can do mental arithmetic and is sort-of-famous for it. Is this the new government policy? Will Boris be authoring the next report on literacy due to the fact he belongs in a Wodehouse story?
And clearly, the main problem mathematics education has is that the syllabus is so utterly boring. There are many beautiful and intriguing and even exciting areas of mathematics, and you will find none of them on a secondary school syllabus. The syllabus is probably chosen so that it is supposed to be generally useful outside of a classroom but I’m quite sure it’s not because nobody is interested in it enough to even consider it outside of a classroom. Were the syllabus to contain more abstract but more interesting things like discrete maths (formal logic, set theory) and simple proof methods, and fewer tedious number manipulation tasks, you’d have more people sitting there and thinking “ah, that’s interesting”, which although not practically applicable to very much, is of infinitely more benefit than some boring trigonometry just because it has left more of an impression, and thus the general methods and thought processes they learnt there will be more likely to be reused when they next encounter a logical problem. Anyone who currently feels inspired, or even interested, to do maths in school is probably insane. Not that this is specific to maths, of course, schools are expected to make their students literate, then they proceed to enforce several years of Shakespeare plays and sonnets and god knows what other horrors my aging brain has forgotten/repressed. In fact, the more you think about it … conspiracy theory?