Core Maths as a subject in its own right

Thursday 30th June 2022

We make much of the role Core Maths plays in supporting the quantitative elements of other subjects and rightly so- this is a fantastic reason for students to study Core Maths. But do we lose sight of the fact that for some students the approach of Core Maths is eye-opening and fascinating, regardless of what other subjects they may be studying?

This particular thought came to the fore in recent conversations with my Year 12 Core Maths class, who have become much more animated since the Year 13s have left to sit their exams! We were working on the concept of risk, how it can be analysed mathematically, and how our inclinations and behaviours don't always follow our quantitative reasoning strictly. Some of the resources on IntegralOpens a new window are based on the book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. I've read the book and was very impressed by it, and it turned out that so had one of my students. At the end of the lesson, the student declared that he'd made up his mind to study behavioural economics at university, a discipline borne out of Kahneman’s collaboration with economist Richard Thaler.

The inter-disciplinary nature of Core Maths gives students access to thinking that goes beyond the boundaries of the other subjects that they're studying. In addition to Thinking, Fast and Slow, there are a number of other books that can introduce students to this sort of thinking. Some examples include:

  • Factfulness by Hans Rosling
  • The Maths of Life and Death by Kit Yates
  • Math on Trial by Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez
  • How to Make the World Add Up by Tim Harford
  • Maths on the Back of an Envelope by Rob Eastaway

There are many more listed on Dave Gale’s blogOpens a new window, with thanks to Kerry Dunton. Any of these books would be great summer reading for Year 11 students who are preparing to start Core Maths in the autumn, or for Year 12 Core Maths students who are starting to think of their personal statements and other applications.

If you, your colleagues, or senior leaders are looking for some light reading, this publicationOpens a new window of the Education & Skills Funding Agency seems to have gone relatively unnoticed since its release in February. The gist is the funding of an additional 40 learning hours in post-16 study programmes within which “institutions should… prioritise maths… for example, as an opportunity to consider scope to offer core maths.” The benefits of Core Maths for students, both in supporting other subjects and as a subject in its own right, are hard to deny. With funding to back up delivery, could there be a better time to start Core Maths or expand your provision?

By Kristin Coldwell

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