Have you used Pi since you left school?





16.12.20



Do you remember Pi? This article will give you a little nostalgia and agrees with those that feel we learn the wrong maths at school!





Do you remember Pi? It’s 3.14159265359… does that ring any bells? It’s the ratio of the circumference of any circle to the diameter of that circle - did you roll your eyes? Stay with me!


A lot of us left school somewhat frustrated about being forced to study mathematics, questioning the relevance of the topic to our everyday lives. Unless you have gone on to work in a STEM (Science, technology, engineering and Maths) related field, you’re unlikely to have had to solve a quadratic equation since


Everyday maths


Mathematics is present in everything you do, every day, even if you do not realise it. The Fibonacci sequence can be found in flowers, shells, how far you’ll get when you fill your car with petrol involves mathematics, the cup of tea you made this morning also involves mathematics! But still, we could ask, do we need to spend time learning about this at school?


Maths education does not only equip you with the skills you need to be a scientist or engineer but also those you need in non-STEM related careers. Mathematical reasoning is the ability to gather and interpret information to solve problems and make informed decisions.


In the workplace, it is likely for you to be tasked with solving a problem. Consider the role of an office manager in choosing the new office drinks supplier. You’d need to consider a range of suppliers, prices, terms and conditions, and select the most optimal choice. Outside of work, you’ll use mathematics when grocery shopping and deciding on the best muesli deal – a 200g packet for £1.50 or the 500g packet for £3.00? (Feel free to answer in the comments!).


From everyday maths to everyday finance


The decision to buy a cheaper low mileage car or a newer hybrid car is an important spending decision and the type we will all encounter at some point. Creating and sticking to a monthly personal budget or preparing to buy a property in the next two years, requires you to consider the options involved and use this to create a plan.


Everyday finance is closely aligned with mathematics. Considering the example above, choosing the best packet of muesli to buy directly impacts how much money you’ll have in your bank when you leave the store. If you are the business owner of the company changing their drinks supplier, the salary, dividend, and pension you take from the company are linked to decisions like this one.


Teach six-year-olds financial literacy


Decisions relating to how much money you can earn, where to spend your money, managing the finances within the home, and preparing for these, significantly impact the type of life you will have. Your ability and confidence in making these decisions lie in the exposure and experience you obtain in this area.


Gaining exposure and experience in making decisions like those above, is the best way to equip you the skills to make better financial decisions throughout life. Children should be presented with real-life financial situations and problems to solve, serving to help develop reasoning skills and the tools that will certainly be used later in life, regardless of the career they choose.


Neuroscientist Silvia Bunge found that the wiring laid down in the brain by the time a child is six predicts the way their brain regions will communicate when they are older and their subsequent ability to reason (1).


I read financial mathematics at University, and still do get rather excited about finance and maths today. This means, I still enjoy being able to teach mathematical concepts when I tutor or seeing maths appear in everyday phenomena. But I see the need to implement financial literacy education as early as Key Stage 1. Children at this age are curious about the world and are making connections, so this is a great time to provide the platform to develop finance-related reasoning skills contributing to the successful financial adult lives they are deserving of.


I do not feel it necessary to exhaust the benefits of a financially literate individual, but for those who are not aware, the lack of financial literacy plays a part in many of the financial issues present today. A mid-Covid survey by the FCA found that 12 million people may struggle with bills or loan repayments (2). The Financial Lives survey by the FCA in 2017 showed that there are 1.3 million unbanked people in the UK and financial vulnerability affects 50% of the UK population (3).


Do you agree that we need more emphasis on financial literacy and it's practical applications?


References

1. https://www.jneurosci.org/content/37/35/8549

2. https://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/fca-highlights-continued-support-consumers-struggling-payments

3. https://www.fca.org.uk/publications/research/understanding-financial-lives-uk-adults