Why scrapping maths is a bad idea

This morning, Leanne Manas tweeted that the Department of Basic Education was considering lowering the pass rate for the senior phase of schooling as well as scrapping Maths as a compulsory subject.

Sigh. This is a bad idea, and I'll tell you why. I was not a child who was great at Maths, in fact, I was pretty useless and I knew that I would not go into a field that required me to do anything with advanced Maths. My skills lay more in languages and arts and luckily my English teacher knew and encouraged this. 

But I think every human being needs a basic understanding of mathematics to survive in this world and be a functioning member of society. And not giving kids the opportunity to really try to master maths is unfair to their development. 

By grade 9, your child should have a clear idea of where their strengths lie. And if they feel like they want to kick maths to the curb for the Senior Certificate part of their education then more power to them.

I think it's fine for Maths to not be a compulsory subject for Senior Certificate, because not everyone has a mathematically inclined brain. While I scraped through higher grade maths by the skin of my teeth, I'm sure my aggregate would have been much better had I not been forced to do maths. 

Which brings me to the idea of lowering pass marks. Doing this does not help the kids at all, if anything it's detrimental to their development. 

According to IOL, the proposed changes for grades 7 - 9 are:

  • Pass four subjects at 40%, one of which is a home language.
  • Pass any other four subjects at 30%; and
  • Maths removed as a compulsory promotion requirement.

Why start them out at life knowing that all they have to strive for is the bare minimum to get by. We should be encouraging our kids to do their best. Not to mention they'll get a nasty shock once they go to a tertiary institute that will consider nothing less than 50% to pass.

But what if your kid is not destined for a tertiary institution and decides that their journey in life is taking them on a different path and they don't actually need to be achieving high marks? I think aiming for a higher grade instil a good work ethic. You're working hard and doing your best. 30% is no one's best. 

Despite me bemoaning mathematics in general I'm grateful that I have a basic and working understanding of maths. In order to be a functional adult (something that school is supposed to prepare you for) you need to know how to work out the tip at a restaurant, how much you owe on the bill, to make sure you're not getting short changed at the shop, to draw up a budget or work out measurements correctly when doing some DIY at home. There are so many things that you need maths for in your every day life that you don't even realise. 

And by taking away this very important subject at such a fundamental stage of a child's education is a grave mistake.

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