Business development · 11 March 2016

Business education is important, but maths is vital for today’s entrepreneurs

Business education
British teenagers have the second lowest levels of numeracy in the developed world
With Britain’s performance when it comes to producing entrepreneurs disappointing in comparison to our international peers, improving problem-solving skills is the only solution.

Studies have shown time and time again that the UK lags behind on output of successful entrepreneurs. Business Advice has previously looked the increasingly popularity of the US higher education system amongst British school-leavers, with Hunter recently calling for better business education in UK schools as a panacea.

Yet research published by the the Operation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) in January pointed to a more pressing issue British teenagers have the second lowest levels of numeracy in the developed world.

These skills have always been important, and the UK’s sluggish productivity performance over recent decades has gone hand-in-hand with an education system where improvements in basic skills have been far from impressive.

But in 2016, when it’s almost impossible to name a successful young business which isnt based on harnessing the power of technology and data, future entrepreneurs need numeracy and problem-solving skills more than ever before.

These analytical skills are more effectively developed obliquely through rigorous teaching of traditional subjects than they are through enterprise education. Algebra, trigonometry and even Latin translation develop the logical processes needed to work through a problem step-by-step and arrive at a solution better than business case studies ever can.

Tech entrepreneur Kathryn Parsons, one of our Small Business Decision Makers 2016, is a case point. Studying classics at Cambridge not only helped her master coding herself, but provided the grounding to start Decoded, her disruptive company teaching clients how to code in a day.

In my work in the education industry I have seen students struggle with the challenges of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme, which is designed to enhance creativity, communications and joined up thinking exactly the skills that the leaders of small companies need.

This is because without the maths skills necessary to calculate averages and understand percentage changes, being asked to create presentations and give considered opinions is futile.



Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics as well as running a tutoring company.