Maths matters: interview with Bobby Seagull
October 07, 2019
Maths matters to Bobby Seagull. We caught up with him about the importance of good numeracy skills and showing enthusiasm for the subject to the next generation…
What’s your opinion of the UK’s maths skills today?
We have to improve. The charity National Numeracy focuses on adult numeracy and has established that nearly 50% of adults in the UK have the numeracy skills we would expect from an 11-year-old primary school child. I think attitudes are changing but not quick enough!
21% of parents* believed they would never need maths in later life. What are your thoughts on this?
Imagine you asked these same parents if they would need literacy, and I bet that the vast majority would agree. Sometimes, adults think of their maths exams at school and then associate some of the more pure maths topics as maths. Whilst pure maths has a beauty, these adults then ignore the practical benefits of good numeracy skills in helping them to make good daily decisions.
*Based on a survey of 2,000 UK parents with children aged 4-14.
What advice would you give to fellow teachers who are inspiring a love of maths?
First of all, thank you so much! Our students do need to get through schemes of learning and pass exams of course. But we must still make sure we allow our students to retain enthusiasm for the subject. Show them the creative side of maths through problem-solving activities and these students will go on to develop a love for maths that will last a lifetime.
And to parents?
The key thing is, even if parents found maths tough at school, to speak positively about maths to their children. Children whose parents speak poorly about maths often find it easier to give up in class. Also, try to show your children maths in action – whether you’re out and about, checking discounts when shopping, measuring weights for cooking or planning a journey. Show them numbers are everywhere.
As the ambassador for this year’s Explore Learning Mathematicians’ Awards, tell us a bit about your role.
Last year, I was honoured to be the ambassador for the Explore Learning Mathematicians’ Awards. This year is the 10th anniversary of the competition, so I’m even more excited to be the ambassador again this year. Last year, I loved speaking at the Grand Final as I tried to convey my sense of enthusiasm and joy for maths. As well as helping to encourage schools to enter the competition, I’ll be hosting the Grand Final again this year. However, this year we have a change of venue to mark the 10th anniversary. I’ll be speaking in the magnificent surroundings of the Natural History Museum. I’m so looking forward to meeting the teams that make it through!
How did your teachers influence you when you were younger?
To this day as an adult, I am still grateful for the influence of my teachers. I was lucky in that my form teacher at secondary school was a maths teacher. He used to put maths problems up on the board and this helped to foster my love for solving puzzles! Also, my actual maths teacher had so much belief in me. I felt that I could achieve anything I put my mind to.
Can you share a favourite memory of one of your teachers from when you were a child?
It was actually of my old headteacher. He knew that I loved reading and learning. So one day, he stopped me in the corridor and asked me the capital of Mongolia. I shouted out “Ulan Bator” and was correct! He walked me to his office and gave me a £5 WHSmith token with a card saying “Ulan Bator”. I didn’t spend that £5 but it always reminds me of the power of knowledge!
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How important is it to inspire confidence in children today?
Obviously, students do need to remember facts and processes at school. However, for me, having that self-belief and confidence is perhaps one of the most important character traits that children can develop for later life. Growing up is much more challenging for young people now, especially in a world where social media can make them feel constantly under pressure. Fearless learners are ones that have good teachers and parents that show that failure is alright. We might get things wrong, but we only learn when we make mistakes.
There’s still time to take part in the Explore Learning Mathematicians’ Awards to celebrate and inspire the next generation of mathematicians!
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