I’m prone to complain about the streamlining and simplification of the maths syllabus here so having come across this blog post on aperiodical by Card Colm, I think it’s worth noting some of the points raised in it that just have not occurred to me.
Regardless, a system such as this ensures that one has some idea of what incoming university students know about mathematics. Every single one of them has had 12 years of maths without a break. It simply isn’t optional.
This is true, in my experience. Maths, of some description, is mandatory right up to the leaving certificate.
This is all in stark contrast to the situation in the USA, where I currently live and teach. There, there is essentially no guaranteed minimum level in mathematics that one can expect an incoming university student to have achieved. Some have not taken mathematics for several years before they show up at the gates of third level institutions.
I find this astonishing in many ways.
We complain quite a bit about maths coverage here and while I’d venture to say it’s been better in the past, I wonder, in truth, just how badly we are doing.
Viz, there is a debate going on in the UK regarding maths teaching up to the age of 18. Timothy Gowers has posted on this today and there is some interesting stuff there too. It’s also worth noting Christian Perfect’s comments on Card Colm piece above if you click through to Colm’s piece.