Trucks, Work and Mathematics

On April 6th 2016 about a dozen trucks drove into Rotterdam.  They had set off from their bases in three European countries. One set of trucks was made by Scania, a subsidiary of VW and had crossed four borders and covered 2000 km to get to Rotterdam.

So what?

Not one of these had a human driver, they were all driven by computer.  Traditional working class jobs are disappearing.  There are still legal hurdles to overcome but as I write this, in 2019, it is now technically possible for a truck to drive overnight from Southampton docks, arrive at a supermarket in Stockport; be unloaded by robots and then drive back to Southampton whilst we sleep.

In Germany, tractors have been fitted with computers that plough fields overnight. Farmers set the machines going, go to bed and get up the following morning to find their tractors are in the shed, engine switched off and the field is ploughed.  This is the reality of life in the 21 st century.

A five year old child in 2019 will probably still be in the workforce in 2080.  What will 2080 be like?  We frankly have not got a clue. Those of us old enough to remember life before the 1980’s, (yay the Osmonds, Thin Lizzy, bell bottoms!!) will remember the introduction of the computer. In the early 1980’s I was teaching and office staff were using typewriters when the first computer arrived.

In those days, the internet was not in common use,  we sent letters not emails and we used to go to Blockbuster to rent a video and yes we had real bread and butter!  In the last 30 years we have experienced huge change and we are experiencing another societal change, we are heading into the age of the robot.

Now brace yourself, according to one American professor, there are now only 3 types of job, yikes, only 3?  Yep it is true.

These are:

  • In person providers,
  • Routine producers and
  • Symbolic analysts.

In person providers are jobs that at the moment can only be done by a person. The person on the till at the supermarket is an in person provider. Yet in America they now have supermarkets that you literally drive into the building.  You put your credit card in and the machine, they look like the cabinets in the frozen food section, picks your items and delivers them to your car window. You literally do not get out of your car.  There are now petrol stations where there is no human. You put your card in and pump the fuel into your car. So In person provider jobs are disappearing.

Routine producers:  are jobs that are traditionally semi-skilled. When I was growing up in North Wales my mates thought I was mad staying on at school because I could go to Hotpoint in the Junction (Llandudno Junction) and assemble washing machines for fifty pounds a week!

Many of these jobs have been exported to lower labour cost areas. So tese jobs are also disappearing.

Symbolic analysts: these are people whop use charts and symbols to solve real-life problems. My plumber got a chart to look at my boiler, diagnosed the problem and fixed the boiler. He is a symbolic analyst.

This group, problem solvers, are the only group who have seen a real increase in their pay since the 1980’s. These, are the people who, are hard to find.

So how does this affect us, and our children’s education?  In many ways we are preparing children for a world that no longer exists.  Many schools are still working on Victorian lines, with a master/servant relationship. They are imparting skills and values that are outdated.  As home educators we have the chance to improve this for our own children.  What do we know about life in 2080, only 1 thing.  They will have problems that they will need to solve, and they will need to become symbolic analysts to solve those problems and mathematics is at the heart of problem solving.

Mathematics is the ‘ Language of the Universe’, everywhere you go, the universe follows rules and those rules are mathematical rules.

In the U.K. like many countries, we have an anti-maths bias. People will hide the fact they cannot read but openly boast about not being able to do basic maths. Numeracy (and Maths) and literacy are like food and drink, you need both to survive.

The reality is that maths is:

  • at the heart of problem solving,
  • develops your child’s thinking ability,
  • essential for your child’s future.


That is why it is so important.

Dr Lawler is establishing a new project to work with home educators and support them  in teaching mathematics to their children.  For more details  email your details to info ‘at’

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