In September 2023, the Mathematical Futures Board of The Royal Society’s Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) launched ‘A new approach to mathematics and data education’ - a discussion paper that makes the case for a new approach to mathematical education.
The paper suggested that current mathematics education should be replaced by Mathematics and Data Education (MDE) that will 'equip future citizens with the capabilities, skills, adaptability, and resilience they need to thrive in a world where mathematics and data play increasingly important roles in everyone’s lives’.
Here are the key messages:
- Mathematical and data sciences are everywhere, and their influence is growing. Our education system must adapt
- The nature of the mathematical education that is needed is changing from ‘mathematics’ to a fusion of mathematics, statistics, data science and computer science; what we have called MDE
- England has a system that serves some students well but fails too many. MDE will improve outcomes for everybody
- MDE is for everybody up to age 18
- MDE is not just a matter for mathematics teachers and departments
- MDE will require change across the whole system including a new National Curriculum for mathematics, particular reform of pathways and qualifications from the age of 14, assessments that provide accurate information about what pupils know and can do and better use of digital technologies
The changes will take 10 – 15 years to implement fully and will need investment and careful planning. The involvement and support of teachers will be critical to success.
STEM Learning supports the Mathematical Futures Board’s vision for the future of MDE. We recognise that mathematical and data sciences “increasingly support thinking and decisions in government, in industry, finance and business, and in academic disciplines. They influence the day-to-day lives of individuals as employees, citizens and consumers of information. The massive increase in the use and availability of data through digital technologies means that this influence can only grow.”
We are also pleased that the report highlights issues around embedding digital technology effectively into teaching and learning, and its necessity in accessing MDE. STEM Learning believes that digital skills play an important role in all our lives, enabling us to be effective users of technology. These skills allow us to use a variety of hardware and software to communicate, create digital artifacts, analyse and represent data and navigate the digital world safely. Collectively, it’s paramount that students are taught digital skills. At primary school children develop a foundation of digital skills, also learning programming, a more specific digital skill within computing. These skills help to equip them for future education, careers, and everyday life. Following the publication of the UK’s Digital Strategy, the need for digital skills is growing, and so is STEM Learning’s support for schools.
More details of our offer in this area for primary teachers can be found here. Our secondary offer can be found here.
We also welcome that the report highlights the increasing presence that AI has in our lives. We have started work on a range of activities to support students and teachers in this area – including our AI themed STEM Clubs week earlier this year.
At STEM Learning, our aim is to provide a world-leading STEM education for all young people across the UK. The National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) aims to transform the way computing is taught in schools across the country – we are pleased that the paper looks to build on its successes. It stated that “MDE should strengthen its links with programming, drawing on pupils’ coding skills developed through the computing curriculum to solve problems in MDE, and providing an authentic context to apply the coding and computational thinking they have learnt in computing”.
As changes to mathematics education don't impact just mathematics teachers, we are also pleased that the paper highlighted that “MDE is not just a matter for mathematics teachers and departments. Over time it should involve teachers of all subjects ”and that students should “encounter mathematical and data ideas in ways that are consistent across subjects, where possible using common vocabulary.”
At STEM Learning, we’ve been helping teachers of mathematics and science to come together to address issues of awareness, content, methods language, and curriculum to create a greater coherence between departments. At the heart of our work is the aim that, no matter the student, they feel confident when faced with mathematics content in a science context.
STEM Learning welcomes the opportunity to work with partners in the sector to address these issues and continue to support, whether that’s delivering teacher CPD, bringing STEM Ambassador role models into schools or providing bespoke, long-term support for groups of schools in collaboration with companies through our ENTHUSE Partnerships.
Read the full Mathematical Futures discussion paper here.