UK Firms Need Migrant Math Skills

Maths has never been one of the trendy subjects to be studied in further education. For a variety of reasons, it’s often perceived as difficult with limited direct links to good employment opportunities. This unfortunately is highly misleading as maths is in huge demand among employers in all sorts of areas. So much so that Uk firms say that there is a genuine shortage of maths skills and they are having to rely on UK migrants rather than employ British candidates.


A recent report has said that there is an urgent need to improve ‘post 16’ maths skills in British students. Particularly in areas which require statistical and quantitative skills (QS), there is a shortage of people with the relevant skills. Maths is often seen as a subject to be studied up until 16 and then switched in preference to other subjects. The report calls for the UK Government to encourage more students to study maths at a higher level in order to keep up with other countries like the US for example.

In the UK, many of the top UK QS jobs are filled with people who were born outside the United Kingdom. In fact two thirds of those covered in the survey, had arrived in the UK over the last ten years. This situation differed from most other employment sectors which suggest there is a specific problem attracting UK candidates with the requisite skills.

The opportunities for the economy to tap into the ‘big data’ revolution are increasing every year, yet without a supply of skilled maths graduates then the UK could start falling behind. The potential needs to be highlighted particularly to students who are considering options for advanced study.

The challenges for the UK education sector to meet that demand are evident, however the rewards are also there too. There is a report on the BBC News Online education sector site, see this to access from the Centre for Economic and Business Research Unit who suggest that nearly 60,000 new jobs which require specific mathematics skills will be created up until 2017.

Dame Jil Matheson, chair of the British Academy project, said: “For our ambition to be fully realised within a generation, we must not underestimate the cultural change that is required – starting now – primarily, but not entirely, with the UK’s education systems.”

Further Reading:

BBC Australia – Source


New Maths Schools to Open

The Russell Group who form the oldest and most established Universities in the UK, are to open a series of colleges specialising in Mathematics.  It’s one of a series of initiatives to try and address a downward spiral in the subject in the UK.

The colleges will have limited numbers but will offer expert tuition from academics, will offer Oxbridge entrance exams and allow students to take part in advanced subjects like Robotics and medical testing as part of their dissertations.  The initiative was unveiled by the Education secretary last week but many fear that it will only have a small impact on a lucky few pupils who are able to attend.


There is a fear, although one that seems ever present in any developed country, that the standards of mathematics is falling behind other countries.  For example some estimate that a child from a poor family in China is likely to be about a year ahead of a child from a wealthy UK family in mathematics.

It’s not always the best measurement though as there are many who disagree with the factory style education system in China.  Pupils in China always do well in scientific based fact tests but fare poorly in other areas which measure imagination, cognitive reason and communication skills.  These are skills that drive invention and ultimately push economies forward with new ideas and entrepreneurial development.

There is little doubt that these colleges will produce fine mathematicians.  Each college will be hugely oversubscribed and will require that pupils sit a numeracy aptitude test, followed by an interview in order to achieve a place.  Combine this with the better resources and a high standard of tuition then it can hardly fail to give a big boost to those students who are selected.

Hopefully more resources will be directed at other students in order to bring up the overall level of numeracy in  the UK.  The sad reality that producing a few hundred gifted mathematicians is not on it’s own going to improve general standards.

There are other initiatives being implemented however and some more to be announced soon linked in with the new free schools.  You can find more information on the British media sites including the BBC, for those outside the UK – use this watch Iplayer abroad to access all the documentaries and news feeds.

Gillian Hensforth: Education and Technology.


Introducing the Monty Hall Problem

I’m sure many of you are familiar with this problem before because it’s pretty famous.  But just in case you haven’t here’s a great little video explaining the ’Monty Hall Problem’.

The vast majority of people first assume that switching choices after the first stage makes no difference.  Simply because the choices left would suggest that you still have a 50/50 chance of choosing the prize.  Hopefully that video explains why you would be much better to switch than stick with your original choice.

The best explanation I’ve seen is on the BBC web site by my favorite TV mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.  You can catch the show on  the BBC website at this address – – here they actually run a small experiment to demonstrate the logic behind this problem.

Soem people may have problems watch the BBC video from outside the UK as it’s linked to a BBC show about Mathematics.  Apparently there are some licensing restrictions and stuff which prevent you accessing the video content – try this site which can with issues like how you can watch British TV even when in the USA or outside the UK –

It’s a great little problem though for anyone interested in probability and for anyone fooled into the 50/50 assumption don’t worry – many famous mathematicians made the same mistake first.  It’s so counter intuitive to our understanding of probability theory on first sight it’s easy to see why it’s so confusing.