Vorderman draws on Nuffield research to demonstrate inadequacy of mathematics education provision

17 August 2011

Carol Vorderman’s report into mathematics education makes a series of recommendations for mathematics education, among them that everyone should study some form of mathematics until the age of 18. The report, A world-class mathematics education for all our young people, draws on Nuffield Foundation research in its recommendations.  

The observation that post-16 mathematics provision in England is out of line with the rest of the world comes in part from examination of our research showing the difference between the UK and comparable OECD countries. Undertaken by Jeremy Hodgen at King’s College London and published by the Foundation, this research found that England, Wales and Northern Ireland had the lowest levels of participation in post-16 mathematics out of 24 countries surveyed.

Is the UK an outlier?

The Vorderman report also considers evidence from other countries, as published in our report, Values and variables, which examined mathematics education in high performing countries. It echoes our conclusions that while we can learn from others, cultural factors mean that we should not try and import apparently successful aspects of maths education from other countries into the UK school system. 

National Curriculum Review

The Vorderman report is part of a growing body of evidence highlighting the inadequacy of the current provision for mathematics education. In June, the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) found that two thirds of students lacked the mathematical knowledge required for their university course. There is also evidence of government support for change. In a recent speech, Education Secretary Michael Gove said that without wanting to prejudge the ongoing National Curriculum Review, it was his belief that "we should set a new goal for the education system so that within a decade the vast majority of pupils are studying maths right through to the age of 18." 

In our response to the National Curriculum Review, we argued that current pathways for mathematics education are inadequate and that the curriculum should feature a range of mathematics education pathways from the age of 14, to cater for the diverse needs of higher education, science and technology industries and basic mathematical, statistical and scientific literacy. We recommended a model for mathematics similar to Twenty First Century Science, with a core of mathematical and statistical literacy and pathways for using and applying mathematics and a deeper exploration of the subject.