The importance of mathematics

The importance of mathematics

Less than half of 16-19 year olds study Mathematics in the UK, something current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wants to change. “In a world of data everywhere and in which statistics form the basis of any workto allow our children to go out into that world without those (numeracy) skills is to fail our children,” he said in a recent speech.

Our current system of ‘A’ Levels, the equivalent of the Spanish Baccalaureate, allows students to choose only three subjects, specializing, and leaving aside what does not interest them. The new Downing Street resident has promised changes to give young Britons “confidence” with their finances and future mortgages.

Current events are helping Sunak’s argument: the heroes of the moment are people used to dealing with large amounts of figures. What Sunak would not have imagined is that these numbers guerrillas would help uncover the tax scandal the chairman of his Conservative Party, Nadhim Zahawi.

Sunak fired the former finance and education minister on Sunday after an investigation concluded that Zahawi violated the ministerial code of good conduct by not correctly reporting an investigation by the British Treasury that detected a “careless” error in the payment of their taxes that ended with a payment of almost six million euros, according to various British media.

The little expected hero of these weeks is Dan Neidle, former tax attorney who has been investigating Zahawi for a long time and helping journalists like Jim Pickard of The Financial Times. Neidle has published on his website and his Twitter account the steps of her analysis, including observations about a company located in Gibraltar.

He used his knowledge and contacts in the legal and tax world to fight when a Zahawi lawyer threatened him with legal action. A photomontage of the website on legal issues Roll on Friday depicts Neidle as a good cop pinning Zahawi against a wall with the caption: “Don’t mess with the Tax Man!”

Neidle has recounted that a legal representative of Zahawi demanded the withdrawal of his accusations about the incorrect payment of taxes. “The pressure would have been difficult to resist without the enormous support of ex-colleagues, ex-clients, a great team of accountants, lawyers, retired Treasury officials…”, Neidle said.

Neidle also praises investigative journalists like Pickard, Anna Isaac of The Guardiany Ashley Armstrongof The Sun. But perhaps the person who has most highlighted the Zahawi tax scandal to the public has been Carol Vorderman, the former star of Countdowna television contest that has lasted 40 years.

In Countdown we British were freaking out about the ability to Vorderman to do big calculations in front of the cameras. these weeks, has devoted his analytical brain to examining the accounts of the powerful using his Twitter account, with more than 600,000 followers, and interviews on television, to focus on investigations like Neidle’s. It is “the people’s platform,” has been praised by comedian Mitch Benn; while the novelist Jonathan Coe has described her as “a torch against corruption”.

“Yo I only amplify the good work of journalists because I have a platform,” Vorderman insisted. “But I do investigate forensically. I know the subject and I have managed companies so I know how to read balance sheets“.

Then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a February 2020 photo with his, at the time, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.

Both Neidle and Vorderman have enough money to spend enjoying a life of leisure, but they are forced to be activists. It is the juxtaposition of the political scandal with a time when many British families and undocumented immigrants suffer from a lack of humanity that motivates Vorderman.

The former worker of Countdown is not a member of any political party: helped the government of Tony Blair to implement more mathematics at the Elementary level and also worked with the Conservative Party when I was in opposition to evaluate how to improve the teaching of this subject.

The magician of arithmetic is undoubtedly the best illustration of the power of mathematics, an ally to Sunak’s arguments and, nevertheless, one of the most uncomfortable voices for the current British government.


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