Problem Solving In The United Kingdom

The article gives a history of the mathematics landscape in the UK since 1837. Algebra has been part of this throughout.

We see algebra as a key tool to help solve problems now, but historically “problem solving was seen as a specialized skill, only for mathematicians in opening up new fields.”

Key points:

  • “A problem solver needs a rich, connected understanding of mathematics and the abilty to see patterns of similarity and association, as well as the skills to carry out the planned attack, and to check that the results make sense in the context of the problem.”
  • “A Royal Commision, reporting on the state of mathematics teaching in nine leading Public (i.e., private) Schools in 1837, noted that the typical two weekly hours of mathematics consisted of Arithmetic, a little manipulative Algebra, and “Euclid“, learned by rote.”


  • Burkhardt, H., Bell, A. (2007) ‘Problem solving in the United Kingdom’ ZDM, Vol. 39, no. 5, pp. 395-403