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Does the average person need mathematics?
The press release was prepared by the president of KIIS, Volodymyr Paniotto
From September 29 to October 9, 2023, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) conducted its own all-Ukrainian public opinion survey "Omnibus". Bythemethodofcomputer-assistedtelephoneinterviews (CATI) based on a random sample of mobile phone numbers (with random generation of phone numbers and subsequent statistical weighting), 1,010 respondents living in all regions of Ukraine (except AR of Crimea) were interviewed. The survey was conducted with adult (aged 18 and older) citizens of Ukraine who, at the time of the survey, lived on the territory of Ukraine (within the boundaries controlled by the authorities of Ukraine until February 24, 2022). The sample did not include residents of territories that were not temporarily controlled by the authorities of Ukraine until February 24, 2022 (AR of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, certain districs of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts), and the survey was not conducted with citizens abroad.
Formally, under normal circumstances, the statistical error of such a sample (with a probability of 0.95 and taking into account the design effect of 1.1) did not exceed 3.4% for indicators close to 50%, 3.0% for indicators close to 25%, 2.1% - for indicators close to 10%, 1.5% - for indicators close to 5%.
Under conditions of war, in addition to the specified formal error, a certain systematic deviation is added. In particular, if in May 2022, among all the respondents we interviewed, 2.5-4% lived in the territories occupied after February 24 (and this corresponded to the percentage of those who live there, because the generation of telephone numbers was random), now due to the occupiers turning off the telephone connection, not a single respondent who currently lives in occupied settlements was included in the sample (along with this, out of a total of 1,010 respondents, 22 respondents lived in a settlement that is currently occupied until February 24, 2022). It is important to note that although the views of the respondents who lived in the occupation were somewhat different, the general trends were quite similar. That is, the impossibility of interviewing such respondents does not significantly affect the quality of the results. There are other factors that can affect the quality of results in "wartime" conditions, which were cited by KIIS earlier.
In general, we believe that the obtained results are still highly representative and allow for a fairly reliable analysis of the public moods of the population.
In a world where technology and analytics play an ever-increasing role, math skills are considered critical to personal and professional success. But is it really so, did Ukrainians need to study mathematics after graduating from high school?". The results of this study help to understand the relationship between education and everyday life in modern Ukrainian society. Our research also provides certain materials for the discussion about the effectiveness of the educational system of Ukraine, about the formation of educational policy and the development of educational programs, in particular, considering the needs of the modern labor market. The survey also raises questions about the role of mathematics in the development of critical thinking and analytical skills, which are key in many modern professions.
We asked the respondents two questions: "Did you need to study mathematics after high school" as well as "Do you think the number of hours for studying mathematics in school should be increased, decreased or left as it is now?".
The results of the answers to these questions are shown in graphs 1 and 2.
Graph 1. Did you need to study mathematics after high school? SEVERAL ANSWERS ARE POSSIBLE. %
The answers show that mathematics was not needed by only 11% of respondents, 89% said that it was needed to one degree or another. The three main cases of using mathematics are when interacting with banks, obtaining a loan, paying for services, etc. (71%), use in everyday life (70%) and influence on thinking (68% of respondents believe that mathematics contributed to the development of their logical thinking), the difference between these three points is insignificant. Two other cases of using mathematics are helping children in their studies (61%) and for further studies in higher education (55%). And finally, 48% of respondents directly use mathematics in their work.
Those who chose not from the proposed list, but gave their answer about the use of mathematics (10%) did not contain anything fundamentally new, but some detail (for hobbies, calculations by patterns, playing poker, helping colleagues in calculating salaries and pensions, on kitchen, etc.).
Gender, age, region of residence have practically no influence on the answers, the type of residence also has almost no influence (87% need mathematics in the village, 91% in the city). Only education has a significant influence (among those with below-secondary or secondary education, 74% used mathematics, among those with special secondary education (technical school, etc.) – 87%, and among those with higher education – 94 %).
The answers to our second question can be found on Graph 2.
Graph 2. In your opinion, the number of hours for studying mathematics in school should be increased, decreased or left as it is now? %
As we can see, the majority (51%) is in favor of leaving things as they are now, 25% do not know what to say about it, and among others, three times as many who believe that the number of hours for mathematics should be increased (19%) in compared to 6% of those who believe that it should be decreased.
Comment by V. Paniotto.
For me, as a mathematician by education, the results of the survey were pleasant, but very unexpected. I have heard so many times how people say that after school they "forgot mathematics like a nightmare and they never needed it" or "why torture a child with this mathematics when he wants to be a philologist or a musician", etc. etc. I even wrote a book with my colleague and friend V. Maksymenko about why sociologists need mathematics, which was popular at the time and quickly sold out despite a circulation of 34,000 copies ("Why does a sociologist have mathematics", Kyiv, 1988). We took up this book because the lack of a sufficient level of mathematical knowledge and logical thinking among students prevented them from taking courses on the analysis of sociological data and modeling of social processes. Now the need to study mathematics will cause even more doubt due to the popularity of artificial intelligence, which can already write programs for computers better than many programmers.
Meanwhile, the study of mathematics is needed not so much for its direct application as for the development of thinking in general. The basis of mathematics is abstract thinking and problem solving, which requires rigorous and consistent thinking. Through solving mathematical problems, people learn to draw logical conclusions and apply abstract concepts to concrete situations. This approach promotes the development of critical thinking, the ability to analyze information, structure and solve complex problems.
The results of the survey need some more verification (in particular, methodological experiments with a change in the wording of the first question), but in general they show that Ukrainians adequately assess the importance of studying mathematics and are ready for reforms that would strengthen the mathematical training of schoolchildren.
Annex 1. Formulation of questions from the questionnaire
À14. Did you need to study mathematics after high school? SEVERAL ANSWERS ARE POSSIBLE.
À15. In your opinion, the number of hours for studying mathematics in school should be increased, decreased or left as it is now?