Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 99 - 119)




  I will ask Mr McWalter to ask the questions this time. We are passing it around.

Mr McWalter

  99. First of all good afternoon. What did you think of the last lot? Were they any good?

  (Clare Dawe) The first ones always are.

  100. Very confident!
  (Clare Dawe) They have gone now so—!

  101. Do you think they are a hard act to follow?
  (Rubens Reis) Yes.
  (Clare Dawe) We will try.

  102. I am going to ask about the relationship between science and maths. One of the previous speakers said, "science is a beautiful thing, it is something we should all want to do". Is maths such a beautiful thing it is something we should all want to do?
  (Clare Dawe) No!

  103. Not for Clare. What about Rubens?
  (Rubens Reis) Yes.

  104. And Tim?
  (Tim Crocker-Buque) It is very important and I am sure lots of people think maths is a beautiful thing and it should be studied. It is essential to link in with science, because without maths you cannot do science, it does not work.
  (Rubens Reis) Maths is the basic thing in science.

  105. You see maths only as an enabling thing for science?
  (Tim Crocker-Buque) For me, maths is an enabling thing for science.

  106. A sort of servant?
  (Tim Crocker-Buque) Yes.
  (Rubens Reis) Yes.
  (Tim Crocker-Buque) But often people like maths on its own.
  (Clare Dawe) Personally, I am doing all three sciences at AS level and I am not doing maths with it, and I have not found it too difficult. Last year I was doing top set maths and I did not struggle with it. However, this year, because I am doing all three sciences, we have one lesson of maths a week which basically goes over all the maths which will be needed within our science syllabus, so it keeps up the maths skills. I think that is a very good idea, that the maths skills are kept up, instead of just dropping them when we get to AS level or when people continue with science without them. It is really working, making sure you have still got confidence with graphs and formulae and things.

  107. When I asked you about maths you creased your brow and were less than enthusiastic.
  (Clare Dawe) I have never enjoyed maths as such but it has been—I would not say interesting—essential within the science syllabus. You do need that extra back-up.

  108. Were you tempted to just drop the sciences so you would not have to do any maths?
  (Clare Dawe) No, because I enjoy science so much but without maths. Maths is not so involved in biology, but within chemistry there are equations and formulae and also physics, so you really do need the maths back-up just in case. If you have struggled with maths, the extra lesson is very useful to have.

  109. Rubens, you seem keener on maths than Clare and Tim.
  (Rubens Reis) Yes.

  110. But when I said it should be a servant to other things, you said yes.
  (Rubens Reis) That is what I think personally. I do not like maths but love the sciences, all three of them. Maths is not something you do for fun but because you have to. It does not mean I am not good at it, I think I am quite good at it.

  111. Of the other sciences, which one do you like best?
  (Rubens Reis) Physics, which is why I have to do maths.

  112. There is quite a lot of maths in physics.
  (Rubens Reis) Exactly.

  113. Are you going to be tempted to drop physics later on because the maths will get harder?
  (Rubens Reis) No, I am looking forward to it.

  114. You are going to stick with it come what may, even though you do not like maths?
  (Rubens Reis) Even though I do not like maths.

  115. Even though, as A N Whitehead once said, mathematics is the language of nature.
  (Rubens Reis) I do think that also but I do not think I have to learn that language that well!

  116. Rubens, you are going to be a magnificently creative physicist!
  (Rubens Reis) Yes!

  117. Tim, you also felt that maths was something that was a servant to the other sciences. Which is your favourite science?

  (Tim Crocker-Buque) My favourite science is biology. Maths does not play a very big part in biology. I am actually taking a straight statistics A-level because it is more relevant to biology than normal maths, pure maths, or mechanics. It is more relevant for the sort of thing I want to do. I am not taking physics so I do not need the complicated maths. For me, definitely maths is just a servant to the sciences.

  118. And you find statistics easy?
  (Tim Crocker-Buque) Yes, I find statistics very easy. I have found it a lot easier than algebra or stuff like that.

  119. I am tempted to ask you the equation for a normal distribution, but I will resist. Clare, do you feel like Rubens, that effectively you could also make considerable progress in the sciences without any maths?
  (Clare Dawe) As I say, I have got my one maths lesson which does cover most of the information needed. I have never really struggled with maths, it is just that I do not particularly enjoy it as a subject. My favourite science is biology, which is more hands-on and learning more about things which will affect you—the body and everything else—in comparison to all the formulae and things which are very specialised in the other subjects and you have to know if you want to go further into those subjects.

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