There is a British Culture of “I am no good at maths” being seen as a badge of honour. This seriously hampers educational achievement and consequently has a detrimental, knock-on effect for British industry.

This damaging attitude is far more prevalent among girls than among boys, and it hampers their future life and earning ability.

The root of the problem is the negative attitude to maths of many teenage girls and their family; as our tests show, this attitude can be changed cheaply by a school, in under two hours.

Career guidance is now the legal responsibility of every school and all students – whatever subject they intend to focus on – need to realise that Maths is an essential tool for modern life and cannot simply be dumped when they leave school.

Maths Action has researched and developed a simple maths career guidance plan for girls in Year Nine who do not intend to study maths after GCSE. It is a simple, cheap, tested solution that can be actioned by any school in Britain.

Here we provide the skeleton plan, from which a school can develop its own agenda, perhaps based on that school’s Awards Day.

We also provide two e-booklets: The Fear Factor shows the historical reasons for girls and women to hold a negative attitude to Maths. What’s It Got To Do With Me? shows the results of a survey held at Langley Park school for girls (1700 pupils) which shows current student attitudes to Maths, both in Year Nine and in Year Twelve (Sixth Form) and also reports on a discussion held among maths teachers.

Maths Action participants 

Shirley Conran, OBEShirley Conran OBE, writer, designer and social entrepreneur, Shirley was an editor on The Observer and The Daily Mail. Her international best-selling books include Superwoman, Lace and Money Stuff, a FREE interactive ebook maths course for girls, that does not need a teacher. Voluntary projects include founding Mothers in Management, founding charity The Work-Life Balance Trust, and founding Maths Action.
www.shirleyconran.com
Photo credit: Andrew Crowley

Jerry Jarvis

Jerry Jarvis, Chair of Maths Action, is an engineer with a long history in business transformation, describing himself as a disrupter. However it was as Managing Director of Edexcel and BTEC that he made a telling impact on UK education, driving Edexcel from an incompetent charity into one of the most successful organisations in the country. Michael Gove credited him with transforming the failing exam system. Through Jerry Jarvis Limited he now works across a broad spectrum of emerging education entities and technology businesses.

Caroline Schott, Chief Executive of the Learning Skills Foundation

Caroline Schott, Chief Executive of the Learning Skills Foundation. Caroline’s early career was in the music and theatre business where she was a concert promoter and producer. When she became a mother, Caroline realised how important it is to teach children “How to Learn” not just “What to Learn”. In 2006, Caroline Shott, Sir Brian and Lady Tovey founded The Learning Skills Foundation to focus on new scientific developments in learning, and to share these with the leaders of the teaching profession.

Dr Anne Hudson, Head Teacher, Langley Park School for GirlsDr Anne Hudson, PhD. Head teacher at Langley Park School for Girls, Kent (1,700) since 2011, following six and a half years as Head of Central Foundation Girls’ School in Tower Hamlets. She has taught in six other schools, five of them in inner London. Dr Hudson, who holds a doctorate in Education, is deeply committed to empowering young women.

 

Diane Carrington, Chair of Governors at Langley Park School for GirlsDiane Carrington, M.Sc. PGCE. Chair of the Board of Governors at Langley Park School for Girls. Diane is a former teacher who now runs a business that trains and coaches senior executives.

Diane is author of Maths Action Report: What’s It Got To Do With Me?

 

Dr Samantha Callan

Dr Samantha Callan, MTh, PhD. A Cambridge-educated social anthropologist, Samantha is Associate Director for Families and Mental Health at the influential Westminster-based think-tank, The Centre for Social Justice. She is also an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. Samantha advises the Government, other politicians and policy-makers, and contributes to parliamentary and media debates on improving young people’s chances in life.

Samantha is author of Maths Action Report: The Fear Factor

Maths Action Report: The Fear Factor

Suns of Seven Circles Shine, 2014, by Gillian Ayres. Reproduced by kind permission of Gillian Ayres RA, CBE and Alan Cristea Gallery, London

This report looks at attitudes to maths and why Maths Anxiety continues to prevail among women and girls.

Mathematics – maths – is a social justice issue: around one in five adults in the UK lack even basic numeracy skills without which they find it difficult to budget and make money stretch as far as possible; they feel stressed and insecure about money regardless of their income, and they struggle to overcome barriers to progression in work. Yet senior educationalists agree that it is culturally acceptable, especially for women, to say, ‘I hate maths, I was never any good with numbers’.

As well as awareness that the relationship between females and maths is typically not a happy one, there is also a growing sense that something needs to be done about it. Even though girls outperform boys at school overall, closer inspection reveals they lag behind when it comes to this indispensible subject. There is a deep-seated and widespread belief that boys are born with an ability to do maths, whereas girls are not. Yet there is no biological reason or evidence from research to support this belief.

The Maths Myth, which drives the fear factor for many women and girls, needs to be publicly identified as a remaining injustice of patriarchy; then it needs to be demolished.

Maths Action Report: The Fear FactorDownload the paper: The Fear Factor: Maths Anxiety in girls and women, by Samantha Callan, a report commissioned by Maths Action.

 

Nicky Morgan, MP As both Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, I’m determined to ensure that there are no barriers to women taking part in and succeeding in STEM subjects and careers. When girls with the potential to succeed in maths and the sciences at school are deterred from pursuing them, it’s not just those young women who lose out, but the entire country’s international competitiveness. This report is a welcome contribution to the debate on how to tackle maths misconceptions with clear recommendations on how all aspects of society can play their part in doing so.
Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities

Sir Gary CooperThe report The Fear Factor makes a major contribution to breaking the ‘Maths Myth’ that girls and women are less competent than boys and men in maths. As a father of three girls, I have seen this stereotype in action, and how it can inhibit educational choices. Maths and statistics are an integral part of many aspects of life and the sooner we get rid of this myth the better, so girls and women can make life decisions without the ‘Fear Factor’. I strongly support this report, knowing it will make a significant difference to educational policy and practice.
Professor Sir Cary Cooper, CBE, The 50th Anniversary Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester& Co-Editor of Women in Management (Volumes 1 & 2)

Learning Skills Foundation logo Centre for Social Justice logo

The present government has an antipathy to overall targets.

It’s difficult to test-compare internationally, because most countries don’t test until a student is 18; however there is a wealth of research comparing maths performance and practice internationally. This was used to develop British government policy and new curriculum and qualifications.

THE ISSUE

The Government is addressing systemic failures in school and college education:

  1. In March 2015, the OECD Report, which measures the maths performance of 15 year old boys against girls, shows that Britain has one of the biggest gender gaps in maths and science. And, in maths, Britain is ranked 27th out of 40 countries. (Source: BBC TV news/Business/25 March 2015/OECD Pisa rankings.)
  2. 48% of employers are unhappy with the numeracy of school and college leavers, so employers pay £1 Billion a year for remedial charges in English and maths.

(Sources: Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Pearson Education and Skills survey 2013.)

THE GOVERNMENT’S LONG TERM VISION

  1. British standards of maths education are on par with the best in the world
  1. All students have a thorough grasp of key mathematical skills by the end of primary school, and finish secondary education with the skills needed for employment and higher education
  1. The vast majority of students study maths through to the age of 18.
  1. Many more girl students now go on to study STEM courses in higher education.

CURRENT GOVERNMENT MATHS INITIATIVES

Primary School

The new maths curriculum.
1. Introduced in September 2014 for all primary and key stage 3 students (up to age 14). This is more challenging and marked at a higher level.
Example: Multiplication tables to 12 X 12, must be learned by age 9.

2. There is greater focus on securing the basics early.
Example: mental and written arithmetic, long division.

3. Calculators will be removed from the test for 11 year olds, to ensure that students get a rigorous grounding in mental and written arithmetic

Secondary school

New, tougher GCSE
The new GCSE is a bigger and more challenging exam than the old GCSE. Schools are expected to increase the amount of time spent teaching: an average of 3 classes per week will increase to 4 or even 5 classes a week. However, teaching time is not mandated by the government.

Post 16 study

1. The national ambition is that by 2020, the vast majority of young people will study maths from age 16 to 18. (Currently Britain has some of the lowest levels of participation in the developed world.)

2. Current students aged 16 without at least a grade C at GCSE in maths and/or English, MUST study from age 16 to 18. The aim should be GCSE, but they can also study for Functional Skills Qualifications.

3. 2015 sees the introduction of new Core Maths qualifications for students aged over 16. This is suitable for those who have at least a grade C but currently don’t intend to carry on studying to A level.

4. New A levels in mathematics and further mathematics are being developed for first teaching in 2017. The first examinations will be in 2019. The new qualifications will be linear and involve more problem solving and mathematical reasoning. The specification has been designed in collaboration with top universities.

Support for maths teacher recruitment

1. ‘Golden hellos’ of up to £10,000 for top graduates who teach maths in colleges and training providers.

2. Increased maths bursaries to £20,000 for trainees with a 2:1 or a first
and £15,000 for trainees with a 2:2

3. The number and the value (to £25,000) of prestigious scholarships has been increased for the highest calibre trainees offered by the Institute of Mathematics.

New maths + Physics Chairs (PhD graduates).

1. High-level academics will get salaries of up to £40,000.

2. Aims to forge more links with business + universities + schools (schools are notoriously poor at engaging business, to make teaching relevant).

3. Increase quality of teaching by adding better subject knowledge.

Support for existing teachers of maths

Maths Hubs
A network of 34 Maths Hubs has been established across the country to support mathematics teachers. The network focus is to develop the teaching of maths as followed in high performing south east Asian countries. The network is also managing a programme to trial Singapore-style maths textbooks in Maths Hub schools. Find out more here.

Shanghai exchange programme (first phase)
1. Shangai is our guide and Shanghai works pragmatically. Shanghai tops international league tables, with pupils three years ahead of British pupils.

2. Two English primary school maths teachers per hub went to selected schools in China in Autumn 2014 to learn Shanghai teaching practices in detail. Translators were provided.

3. Chinese teachers who speak good English were embedded in selected English primary schools for 4 weeks in November 2014.

4. The selected British schools can now transform their practice, to teach as in Shanghai. Outcomes will be evaluated. Hub schools will roll out successful practice across Britain.

5. There will be a secondary phase of the exchange.

National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM)
NCETM has the national government contract (with a consortium of MEI, Tribal, MyScience, IoE) to support the professional development of
British maths teachers. Currently NCETM is largely focussed on managing the Maths School Hubs programme, and the Shanghai Exchange. Read more on the NCETM website.

Further Maths Support Programme (FMSP)
• National government contracts (run by MEI) support the uptake of maths and further maths A level. Find out more at furthermaths.co.uk

Core Maths Support Programme (CMSP)
• The National government programme (run by CfBT) manages the introduction of Core Maths qualifications. Find out more at coremaths.org.

Your Life
• A national campaign to promote maths and science careers. Specific focus is on increasing the participation of girls in maths and physics study.
The President of this well organised campaign is Edwina Dunn
Find out more at YourLife.org.uk.

Recommendations for parents from the Maths Action Survey, What’s It Got To Do With Me. This is a Survey of 400 girls in year 9 (13 and 14 year olds) and year 12 (16 and 17 year olds).

1. Maths in not an inherited ability. Mothers should never say that they were no good at maths, when they were at school. (They may have been badly taught) This is interpreted by the daughter as permission to be bad at maths. Instead, mothers should say, ‘There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be good at maths.’

2. Only 39% of year 9 have a regular weekly allowance. this is regrettable, because girls do not then learn how to budget, manage and save money. Maths Action recommends a weekly allowance to instil good habits.

3. Only 45% of year 9 girls undertake regular jobs at home. This is a pity because regular household tasks incorporate a girl into the home system-support work.

Maths Action recommends one daily and one weekly task to be linked to pocket money payments. Girls may then appreciate that beds don’t make themselves, that dull work is part of any job and that housework should be a family team effort.

4. Maths Action recommends that Parents should not help with maths homework. The main two reasons for homework are for reinforcement of a lesson learned and for the student to learn and work alone. We believe that parents need to see that homework is prepared on time and tidy. Parents are not qualified to teach maths.

Maths Action in action at Langley Park School for GirlsLangley Park School for Girls created a programme of events to help girls see the value of maths in school and encourage them, their parents and carers, and teachers to promote a positive attitude to maths study.

Create a programme of events 

LangleyPark-invitationClick for larger image.  Suggested Programme of Events – above from Langley Park School for Girls

Show Ambition, a three minute film designed to show girls – particularly those in Year 9 – the importance of maths in all areas of life.

Create your own debate

To see how it’s done, watch Question Time at Langley Park School for Girls.

Hear from students who are NOT continuing with maths after GCSE

Hear a discussion among girls who will NOT continue to study maths after GCSE:

Hear a discussion among girls who WILL continue to study maths after GCSE:

An introduction to Maths Action

There is a British Culture of “I am no good at maths” being seen as a badge of honour. This seriously hampers educational achievement and consequently has a detrimental, knock-on effect for British industry.

Find out more about what Maths Action has achieved.

Some parents feel obliged to help their children with maths homework.
This is a relatively recent demand by schools, regrettable because:

  1. Homework is supposed to be practice for children to work on their own.
  1. The parent may be no good at maths or has been taught in a different, old-fashioned way…
  1. Which can promote arguments..
    Which can be harassing for the parent, who may have done a hard day’s work.
    Which can lead to family discord.
  1. A parent’s job is to see that its child does its homework — not to do it for their offspring, to any degree.
  1. The maths teacher is supposed to teach maths to children, not to parents.
  1. 50% of maths teachers are NOTqualified to teach maths. So why add a different, unqualified teacher to the equation?

 

Maths Action Report: What's It Got To Do With Me?

Cover picture credit: Suns of Seven Circles Shine, 2014, by Gillian Ayres. Reproduced by kind permission of Gillian Ayres RA, CBE and Alan Cristea Gallery, London

This Maths Action paper attempts to understand why girls do not continue to study maths after GCSE level, and consequently fail to pursue careers in maths related areas. The most recent statistics show us that in 2014, of the A level papers taken by girls only 8.5% were in Maths A Level or Further Maths A Level, compared to 16.9% of boys (Joint Council for Qualifications ‘Cumulative percentages of Subject Results by Grade and by Gender’. 2014). When one considers the crucial need for maths in order to succeed in every-day life as well as in all workplaces, it is clear how this disadvantages women in their life.

However, as Elizabeth Truss, when Minister for Education and Child Care, said:
“Getting girls to take an interest in maths and science isn’t just about improving their earnings potential, as it’s also about improving the country’s economic and educational performance.” (The Guardian newspaper, 8th December 2014, ‘A gender gap that simply doesn’t add up’)

One can easily see the evidence of this loss of creativity and talent, for example in the fact that only 6% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female. (Women in Engineering Statistics 2014, from Royal Academy of Engineering analysis of the Labour Force Survey, 2004–2010, quoted in Diversity data, RAEng, 20)

The present study was designed to focus on one girls’ secondary academy and to investigate why, even though at GCSE 90% of girls gained A*–C passes in maths, only 22% chose to study maths in Year 12.

Download the paperWhat's It Got To Do With Me? Primary research into attitudes to maths of Year 9 (13–14 year olds) and Year 12 (16–17 year olds): What’s It Got To Do With Me? Primary research into attitudes to maths of Year 9 (13–14 year olds) and Year 12 (16–17 year olds), by Diane Carrington, M.Sc. Psych. PGCE, a survey commissioned by Maths Action.

Learning Skills Foundation logo

Maths Action presented the results of 3 Attitude surveys at House of Lords, 7 September 2015. They showed the attitudes of secondary school girls to maths and whether their attitudes change during their school life.

Maths Action releases two new reports:

Maths Action Report: The Fear FactorThe Fear Factor, includes the historical reasons for the negative attitude of British women to maths.

Maths Action Report: What's It Got To Do With Me?What’s It Got To Do With Me? explores the reasons why British girls don’t continue to study Mathematics – maths – in the 6th Form after the compulsory GCSE exam, and their often negative attitude towards maths.

Your Lifeyourlife.org.uk is a three-year campaign aimed at young adults in the UK, helping to ensure that everyone has the maths and science skills needed to succeed in the current competitive global economy.

It looks to inspire you to study maths and physics as a gateway into wide-ranging careers whilst also encouraging employers to recruit and retain this talent.