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Why is maths important
Mathematics introduces children to concepts, skills and thinking strategies that are essential in everyday life and support learning across the curriculum. It helps children make sense of the numbers, patterns and shapes they see in the world around them, offers ways of handling data in an increasingly digital world and makes a crucial contribution to their development as successful learners. Children delight in using mathematics to solve a problem, especially when it leads them to an unexpected discovery or new connections. As their confidence grows, they look for patterns, use logical reasoning, suggest solutions and try out different approaches to problems. Mathematics offers children a powerful way of communicating. They learn to explore and explain their ideas using symbols, diagrams and spoken and written language. They start to discover how mathematics has developed over time and contributes to our economy, society and culture. Studying mathematics stimulates curiosity, fosters creativity and equips children with the skills they need in life beyond school.
We teach mathematics because it has applications in a range of contexts, including other areas of the curriculum. Much of mathematics as we know it today has developed in response to practical challenges in science and technology, in the social sciences and in economics. So, as well as being a subject in its own right, with its own patterns, principles an d procedures, mathematics is a subject that can be applied. The National Curriculum importance statement for mathematics refers, for example, to mathematical skills that ‘support learning across the curriculum’. The primary-school teacher who is responsible for teaching nearly all the areas of the curriculum is uniquely placed to take advantage of opportunities that arise, for example, in the context of science and technology, in the arts, in history, geography and society, to apply mathematical skills and concepts purposefully in meaningful contexts – and to make explicit to the children what mathematics is being applied
Sometimes to solve a mathematical problem we have to reason logically and systematically, using what is called deductive reasoning. Other times, an insight that leads to a solution may require thinking creatively, divergently and imaginatively. So the importance statement for mathematics quoted at the head of this chapter rightly, if surprisingly, also claims that ‘studying mathematics … fosters creativity’. So mathematics is an important context for developing effective problemsolving strategies that potentially have significance in all areas of human activity. But also in learning mathematics, children have many opportunities to ‘look for patterns’. This involves inductive reasoning leading to the articulation of generalizations, statements of what is always the case. The process of using a number of specific instances to formulate a general rule or principle, which can then be applied in other instances, is at the heart of mathematical thinking