@MISC{Cook_basicmathematical, author = {Jean Cook}, title = {Basic Mathematical Skills: Are they important?}, year = {} }

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Abstract

All students studying a quantitative course in higher education need certain basic mathematical skills that depend on the syllabus being followed. For a variety of reasons, many students are entering higher education without the requisite competence. Unless action is taken now the problem will cascade beyond this generation of students. In the United Kingdom there are several reasons for this diminution of basic skills. Cockcroft in 1982 published a report which, since that time, has influenced school education, and by extension, higher education. He suggested that all lessons in mathematics should contain six elements, namely exposition, explanation, exploration, examination, exercise and expression. In schools it became unfashionable to concentrate on exercise by which he meant the reinforcement of basic skills. The changes in teaching style resulting from the Cockcroft report meant that traditional text books were replaced by patronising cartoon like books where there were fewer examples on which the students could hone their skills. In addition, since that time, the pocket calculator has become ubiquitous in the mathematics classroom and cheap enough for most students to purchase. Many now pick up a calculator to multiply 6 by 7 which is not what was expected when it was claimed that the calculator would allow students to concentrate on understanding the basic concepts by removing the need to perform difficult arithmetic calculations.