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Maths and UK culture

Research summary & links to further information about maths and UK culture.


Negative attitudes towards maths are very common in the UK. Maths is widely seen as the remit of nerds, ‘mad scientists’ or the socially inept, and it’s common to hear people write themselves off as ‘no good at maths’.

In other parts of the world, attitudes to maths are often very different from this. And numeracy levels around the world suggest that the culture has an impact on how people get on in maths. Despite spending more than most nations on education, the UK appears low down the international rankings for maths attainment.

It’s culturally acceptable in the UK to be negative about maths. Lots of factors play into this culture – including bad school experiences and maths anxiety – and these negative attitudes have an impact on learners’ engagement and achievement in maths.

Some of the other key areas where cultural differences affect attitudes and attainment around the world are: social mobility and gender equality, class sizes at school, and mixed ability teaching or equality in the classroom.


Links to more information on maths and culture

A summary of the international education rankings from PISA: https://www.tes.com/news/pisa-glance-global-education-rankings-science-maths-and-reading

An overview of the TIMMS international results in maths: http://timss2015.org/timss-2015/mathematics/student-achievement/

This website looks at the world’s best-performing education systems and explores what might set them apart: http://ncee.org/what-we-do/center-on-international-education-benchmarking/top-performing-countries/

This book explores some of the ideas behind international comparisons: https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Promoting_Quality_in_Learning.html?id=kLyvAwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

This report looks at ‘Shanghai Maths’ and the China-England maths teacher exchange: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/773320/MTE_main_report.pdf