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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Maths 'should be optional'
Maths could be replaced by numeracy skills, suggests the union president

Secondary school pupils should be able to drop maths for GCSE and study more practical numeracy skills, says a teachers' union leader.

"Mathematics has always been a main subject, but why?", said Terry Bladen, president of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

Speaking at the union's annual conference in Bournemouth, Terry Bladen, who teaches maths, suggested a more radical re-think of what was compulsory for older pupils.

"I would always argue that pupils should be numerate, with numeracy taught throughout all the key stages, but numeracy can be divorced from mathematics.


"How often do the majority of people need or use mathematical concepts once they have left school?"

He said that, while all children should be numerate, allowing them to drop advanced concepts such as quadratic equations and trigonometry at the age of 14 would still allow enthusiastic pupils to choose the subject for GCSE if they wanted.

"Maths classes would for the first time be made up of pupils who actually enjoyed and wanted to pursue the subject.

"This would also help schools to some extent overcome the problem of recruiting specialist maths teachers. It would also allow more time in the curriculum for other subjects," he said.

The BBC's James Westhead
"Many teachers are horrified; maths has always been a cornerstone of education"

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