NEW STATESMAN: Mortgage rates. Health statistics. Sales prices. We are bombarded on a daily basis with figures of all kinds, and yet the majority of children and adults in Britain remain wary of maths and unembarrassed by their poor numeracy skills. International comparisons raise the alarming possibility of a nation so numerically challenged that it will fail to cash in on the e-commerce revolution, or reap the rewards of the Information Age. Enter Maths Year 2000, a government initiative – launched the other day by Tony Blair, Carol Vorderman and Johnny Ball – which aims to make Britons understand the importance of maths for day-to-day living and profit.
There is a third reason for studying mathematics, one that risks being overlooked during Maths Year 2000. Maths is beautiful. Ever since Pythagoras came up with his theorem, mankind has studied mathematics for its own sake, for the sheer joy of comprehending the deep truths that inhabit the abstract world of numbers.