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6:20pm on Tuesday, 22nd October, 2013:
One if my students today asked me about matrices. He's in his final year and in one of his lectures the lecturer had started drawing matrices on the board. The student hadn't come across matrices before.
While trying to explain them, it transpired that he hadn't come across calculus or complex numbers either. He's a very, very good student, so this isn't one of those "I don't get on with maths, me" things - he really hasn't encountered those things before, even though he was in the top maths set at school.
We insist that home students have a GCSE in mathematics, so it seems that whatever examination board he did his maths GCSE for, it didn't cover any of those things. I did matrices when I was 12, calculus when I was about 14 and complex numbers when I was about 15 (which was a real disappointment as they were easy).
OK, so I was also taught to use a slide rule at age 11, so times do change, Nevertheless, I wonder what they're teaching children today in mathematics GCSEs if a really smart one can arrive at university never having encountered a matrix, calculus or a complex number before.
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