Minister issues warning over nation’s ‘anti-maths culture’

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THE UK will suffer economic decline if attitudes towards maths do not change, according to an education Minister.

Elizabeth Truss suggested that the nation’s productivity and growth is being put under threat by poor maths skills.

Ms Truss’s comments come the week before she is due to lead a trip to Shanghai, China, to find out why their results in the subject are so high.

Recent international tests put Shanghai, along with a number of other Asian nations , at the top for maths skills.

“Shanghai is the top-performing part of the world for maths – their children are streets ahead,” Ms Truss said.

“Shanghai and Singapore have teaching practices and a positive philosophy that make the difference. They have a belief that diligence redeems lack of ability.

“Our new curriculum has borrowed from theirs because we know it works – early learning of key arithmetic, and a focus on times tables and long division, for instance.”

She added that students in Shanghai have a “can-do attitude to maths, which contrasts with the long-term anti-maths culture that exists here”.

“The reality is that unless we change our philosophy, and get better at maths, we will suffer economic decline,” Ms Truss said.

The Minister, who will be joined by a number of headteachers on the China trip, is to visit three schools and teacher training centres during her visit, the Department for Education (DfE) said.

The department said that the visit was the latest step in a drive to raise maths standards, and will look at what has made areas of the Far East among the best in the world at teaching the subject.

More than half a million 15-year-olds took part in the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study, with the findings published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in December.

Overall, the UK came 26th in maths with an average score of 494. This was broadly the same as the average for the subject, and on a par with nations such as the Czech Republic, France and Norway.