Why CTOs should care about how maths is being taught in schools

Maths provides the underlying foundations for most of the things we take for granted today. Credit cards, computers, personal devices and cyber security are all based on algorithms. In January, the government announced it would give £60m more a year to maths study, and the 2020 spring budget promised to give every region funds for a specialist maths school. This highlights that there is an understanding of how important maths will be to the future prosperity of the UK, but why should CTOs take note of this?

Maths is vital to the fourth revolution

We are in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, “a new chapter in human development, enabled by extraordinary technology advances” which means a dramatic adaptation of IT, AI, big data, IoT and robotics, to name but a few. From a business perspective, this creates opportunities to cultivate new markets in digital services and products or bolster existing offerings.

Maths is the foundation of the science technologies that are contributing to this industrial revolution from physics and engineering, to nanotechnology to materials science. The fact is, maths is an essential element for digital technologies.

Understanding maths means better problem solving for future employees

Typically, CTOs are responsible for a firm’s research and development (R&D) and technological needs. Hiring employees that have a strong understanding of maths will help drive value and performance through better problem solving in these departments.

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Problem solving is a key skill in the workplace. Indeed, the World Economic Forum predicts it will continue to trend as an in-demand skill until 2022 at the very least. That’s because, technically, there is no one way to problem solve; depending on the circumstances, there are several different instruments to help get to a solution: spoken language, drawing, coding language and examining documents, for example. Maths generally brings all this together as an open, simple, universal explanation of problems and solutions which can be understood by everyone – no matter where you are in the world.

Mathematicians, and also physicists who have a practical and theoretical understanding, often have strong creativity and innovation tendencies, too. As an employer, this is, of course, a great way to breathe life into an organisation. Beyond this, candidates with these traits have a positive on whole industries and nations as well.

Students won’t care about STEM if it’s boring

Those from Generation-Z have grown up with digital technology entwined in their lives and so they’re naturally more creative with data. The next generation should be even greater still, however, with the way schools currently teach maths, there is a danger this won’t be the case. Currently, huge disconnection exists because students don’t understand how the maths they learn is relevant to the real-world.

The issue is that to many students, maths is dull. It seems tedious, and that’s because it’s incredibly difficult to convey its worth. There’s little emphasis on real-world correlations due to curriculums’ focus on covering topics that will allow students to pass their exams, rather than how this translates into working life.

What role do companies play?

Our schools are clearly struggling, and so companies should offer a helping hand, particularly in industries where there is a growing skills gap. For example, in cyber security, where the (ISC)2 cyber security workforce study revealed Europe’s skills gap of 219,000, organisations should offer work experience, placements and apprenticeships. If CTOs and companies place a huge emphasis on nurturing the next generation, this will spark enthusiasm in the roles maths can lead to in later life.

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Government initiatives and schools must play a crucial role in finding a way for maths study to translate into the real world, but so must CTOs. Creating employment opportunities such as graduate schemes and placements means maths students can see the value in what they do. From tech to business intelligence, strategy modelling to healthcare, all companies will find value in employees with strong maths skills.

Written by Martin Rudd, CTO of Telesoft Technologies

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