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Matt Parker talks percentages

If anyone caught BBC1’s consumer moanfest Watchdog this week, they may have been pleasantly surprised to see Aperiodicobber1 Matt Parker featured in the show. Following a segment about a UK sports chain and its shocking use of the classic ‘UP TO 70% OFF’ ruse, they invited Matt on the show to explain how to calculate percentages more easily, and so that Anne Robinson could mock him for being Australian, apparently.

Since the tips Matt presented were useful, we at the Aperiodical thought it was worth reproducing Parker’s Patented Percentage Ploys here, for your reference.

  1. The internet assures me that ‘cobber’ is Australian slang for ‘friend’. []

Everyone’s terrible at maths, survey finds

A recent study commissioned by Nationwide Building Society has revealed that more than one in four girls want to drop maths at 14, that less than half of 12-13 year old students surveyed could correctly calculate their change from £100 when paying for shopping worth £64.23, and that 76% of those who would choose to drop maths at GCSE said they either “couldn’t do maths” (31%) or “found it boring” (45%). They also tested respondents on their ability to identify the best value in a multi-buy situation, thus firmly conflating ‘the ability to do maths’ with ‘the ability to do arithmetic’.

Four silly stories

Silly maths stories, like buses with a taxi sneaking into the bus lane behind them, come along four at a time, it seems. None of these stories merits being reported on here on its own, but we felt the fact that they all came to our attention so close to each other deserved recognition.

National Numeracy Challenge for working adults

A new1 charity called National Numeracy has launched a campaign to

produce a positive transformation of public attitudes to numeracy and mathematics in the UK, to create an “I can do maths” approach and to raise the numeracy skills of at least 500,000 adults of working age to Level 1 or Level 2 where appropriate.

  1. Relatively new, they were launched in March. []

Telegraph’s open letter to Michael Gove and Vince Cable on numeracy (presented with arithmetic errors)

The Telegraph have printed an open letter to Michael Gove and Vince Cable summarising its six month numeracy campaign, Make Britain Count. This says that the campaign has “highlighted the crisis we face as a nation in maths education” and call on the Secretaries of State to commit resources, adjust policy and campaign to address the issue.

A wide range of experts and concerned organisations working in education, training and industry have lined up to add their voices to our central contention that underperformance in maths up to 16, and avoidance of it thereafter, have left us with a critical skills gap when it comes to filling the job vacancies that exist right now for the numerate.

The letter gives eight points that the Telegraph feels need to be addressed and promises to return to the issue at the start of the new school year.

Incredibly, the article is presented with a photograph of a blackboard showing incorrect calculations of the four times table1. $10 \times 4 = 38$, does it? Perhaps that only serves to highlight the problem further.

Screenshot of Telegraph webpage showing arithmetic errors on blackboard

Screenshot of Telegraph webpage showing arithmetic errors on blackboard

Source: Make Britain Count: Solve our maths problem, Michael Gove.

  1. from $8 \times 4$ onwards. The error, which occurs twice, seems to involve adding $4$ to $28$ and $38$ to get $30$ and $40$, respectively, although the move from $8$ to $12$ is done correctly. []

Marcus du Sautoy interview; Marcus supports the Telegraph’s numeracy campaign

Marcus du Sautoy has lent his weight to The Telegraph’s numeracy campaign, Make Britain Count. In an interview covering maths and music, patterns and abstraction and a little about his and his children’s mathematics education, he also talks about how maths teaching in schools could be improved, stating that

in this country there’s an honour in saying you’re bad at maths, whereas in places such as India and China, mathematics is valued by the community. Parents there know that if their kids understand this language, they will be empowered. Sadly, this message hasn’t got across in many European countries yet… It’s got to be something that the whole society takes responsibility for and that is why I’m supporting the Telegraph’s Make Britain Count campaign. We’re not brave enough in our maths education these days. Kids get so bored at school from 11 to 14. They’re not exposed to the really interesting stuff.

Source: Make Britain Count: Marcus du Sautoy joins our campaign.