Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The campaign starts here...

OK, bear with me 'cos I haven't thought this through fully yet, but all the same, enough's enough.

I've been mulling over my earlier posting on maths in the media generally, and I think I've located a central problem. Carol Vorderman. Now don't get me wrong, there was a time when our Carol brought a general sense of happiness and well-being to many maths teachers, back when Countdown was in its infancy. But by heck that time has long passed. Now it's all 30-day detox and Carol's book of Sudoku and put them away woman and and and those flippin' loan adverts. Enough already! No wonder people aren't studying maths much anymore...

Now, leaving aside the issue of the current campaign against Ms Vorderman and these loan adverts (see the MoneySavingExpert website here - I encourage you to sign the petition, seriously), I'm here to say right, that's it, CV's place as the unofficial mathsy media mascot type person is over. Finito. I'm calling it. Maybe it was fun while it lasted, but her reign is over.

So, the next question has to be, who takes her place? Who should the public think of, when they think "maths", now that Johnny Ball is enjoying his retirement? Who can we turn to? Call on? Who will save us?

Here's where I reckon we have to think outside the box. Oh yeah, we could look around and find someone who's done a bit of maths - the Irish comedian Dara O'Briain, for example, as I read today - and try to get them to do maths work in the media, but that's what they're expecting us to do. It would be too easy. Why not come at the problem from another angle entirely - a sort of proof by contradiction, if you will?

Yes folks, the campaign starts here. My nomination for the UK's maths spokesperson is, has got to be...

... Boris Johnson.

Admit it, you're intrigued.

OK, I'll grant there may be arguments offered against this idea, so let's deal with them, one by one.
  1. He's busy
    Well, yes, to an extent, but we all know Boris is game for a laugh. Surely he'd fit us in somewhere.
  2. He's a bit of a buffoon
    Well, again, yes, but don't we say as maths teachers that we need to encourage pupils to believe that anyone can do the subject? If we can show 'em old BJ differentiating y with respect to x... well, can you imagine?
  3. He has no idea whatsoever about maths in any way shape or form
    OK, so we're getting to the meat of the argument. The crux of the matter. Or, as Boris would put it, the ummmm ahh yes well ah you see the ummm crux yes indeed the crux, crux! of the emmmmmmmmmmmmmm... matter.
    But, be honest, since when has a politician ever let a lack of knowledge in a subject deter them from speaking as if they were an absolute expert? Aha! Y'see? I have absolute confidence that Boris can sound as knowledgeable about maths as he does about anything else.
  4. He's Boris Johnson
    I'll get back to you on that one.
For me, it has to be Boris. It's that rare thing... that moment of clarity when you realise you've finally arrived at a proof, and that proof is so simple, so obvious, that you wonder how you could miss it. And answer me this: would you go for a loan company on his recommendation?

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