tisdag 13 oktober 2009

Swedish Mathematics Flu

Swedish Minister of Education Jan Björklund has detected that systematics errors of elementary arithmetics are spreading in the mathematics classes of Swedish schools: For example 51 - 49 = 18 based on 5 - 4 = 1 and 9 - 1 = 8. 

To come to grips with this arithmetics flu,  Björklund has allocated 500 million Swedish Crowns or 50 million Euro, to be distributed evenly over the country to mathematics teachers during three years, as a form of vaccine against the flu. 

Now, systematic errors of arithmetics can only originate from mathematics teaching and to sprinkle out money like Björklund does, could have the effect of spreading rather than stopping the flu. Is this a Swedish syndrome or is another pandemi coming up? A mathematics flu? A serious threat to the education society?

The total support to mathematical sciences by the Swedish Research Council is about 50 milj/year, about 1/3 of the cost of the mathematics flu vaccination/year. Where is Swedish mathematics education and mathematical science heading?  

Swedish university mathematicians do not seem to question Björklund's strategy, nor does media, and so the march goes on...

Note that Björklund directs all the money to grassroot teachers and thus bypasses the entire university system responsible for teachers education and training.  This is a serious crisis of credibility of university mathematics...and to this disease there seems to be no vaccine...as long as the nature and origin of the disease is unknown...but if it can be identified, maybe a cure can be found...

500 million Swedish Crowns could give a tremendous boost to Swedish mathematics and mathematics education in school and university. Now all this money is wasted but nobody is protesting: mathematicians, mathematics teachers educators, politicians and taxpayers all keep quiet. Why? Isn´t the mathematics very clear? 500 million gone!

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