# TS Spotlight

## "When will I ever use this in real life?"

### "When will I ever use this in real life?" Maths in the Real World ~ Written by Mr Grantham, Assistant Headteacher and Head of Maths

As a Maths teacher, I often hear, “When will I ever use this in real life?”. This question underlines a common belief that the worth of knowledge lies only in how we can apply it. In my teaching, I strive to counter this by broadening students’ perception of Mathematics beyond just its practicality. While I recognize the value of good grades and the usefulness of Maths for many careers, my deeper commitment is to foster curiosity.

Through my classes, I aim to elevate Mathematics from a mere tool for computation to a discipline of cultural significance. In line with OFSTED’s recent focus on ‘hinterland knowledge’, my lessons are increasingly infused with historical contexts that help students to understand that Mathematics goes beyond the notion of rigid right or wrong.

For instance, when teaching Cartesian Geometric Proofs, such as the equation y = mx + c, I introduce students to Descartes. A pivotal figure of the early Enlightenment, Descartes's emphasis on reason was a characteristic of the period not only present in Mathematics but also in arts and humanities. In this lesson, I guide students to see how these values of rationality and consistency were evident in Descartes’ approach to Mathematics.

Similarly, when exploring topics involving infinite numbers, I draw connections to Cantor, a mathematician active during the Romantic Period. This era, valuing intuition and the pursuit of the infinite, contrasts with the Enlightenment’s rationality. Cantor’s Mathematics, embracing Romantic ideals, signified a shift from strict rationalism. Many students, familiar with Romantic poetry, may not initially see its connection to the Maths they are learning. Highlighting these connections, I aim to show that Mathematics has a rich history, influenced by intellectual trends of the time.

This approach is particularly important as we focus more on inclusivity and diversity in education. Our curriculum is increasingly designed not to force irrelevant content, but to represent Mathematics as a universal language. In the summer term of Year 7, we introduce an enrichment curriculum that narrates the story of Mathematics. Starting with the Ishango bone from Africa, which dates back 20,000 years and predates written history, we move on to the profound contributions of Indian mathematicians, especially in the development of zero. We also study alternate numerical systems from ancient Egypt and China and explore the Islamic Golden Age’s role in shaping modern Mathematics, questioning why foundational concepts are often attributed to later European figures.

In my view, a successful Maths department is one where students no longer ask, “When will

I ever use this in real life?”, but instead inquire, “How does this fit into the broader human story?”.

Twickenham School

Percy Road

Twickenham

TW2 6JW

0208 894 4503