Monday, 24 June 2013

Probability a great loss

Michael Gove's new primary curriculum proposals for mathematics have removed 'probability' from the programmes of study, presumably to make room for lots of extra hard, abstract and pointless calculations. What a shame! Probability is a really important application of mathematics that is fundamental to all kinds of discourse: political, medical, sociological, educational, and so on, and so on. And it's also great fun to introduce to children and helps them to make sense of a world where decisions are based continually on assessment of risk.

It is also an area of mathematics that people get wrong. Today's example was provided by Jack Straw, the former Home Secretary, commenting on the Stephen Lawrence enquiry on Radio 4. I think he meant to say that it is very unlikely that anything like the actions of the police 20 years ago could happen now. In fact, what he said was: 'the chances of that happening today are infinitesimally smaller than they were 20 years ago.' So, no change then!

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear. We had great fun in our Y4 class with a week of probability lessons which linked nicely to all sorts of real life experience including sports, the national lottery, bingo, fruit machines - all contexts which the children recognised even if they're not allowed to gamble! Had the added bonus of explaining why gamblers never win games of chance. We used tally charts, fractions, percentages,'s a struggle trying to ensure that governmental ignorance doesn't infect the next generation...:(