[Paras 7, 8]: [Dr Andrew Hodges] He explains: “Most people seem to remember maths as their worst subject and have developed a mental block about it. So there will be a lot of areas about which they know nothing. Everyone who tries to popularise maths understands they are going to come up against this, but most choose to ignore it and carry on regardless. I felt it was important to address this barrier between writer and reader head on.”.

Which is easier said than done, when you realise just how limited many people’s maths often is. Only last week, Camelot had to withdraw one of its scratchcards when loads of punters complained that they couldn't understand why − 9 was a lower number than − 8. For Hodges, the real battleground is the syllabus at key stages 3 and 4, where the ante gets upped from relatively straightforward maths to something altogether more complicated: an uneasy hybrid of the Athenian Euclidian abstract logic that was so appealing to the Victorian gentry and the relentless grind of long calculation that has its roots in the pre-computer era when bosses needed clerks to keep books and ledgers with metronomic accuracy.

I'm trying to determine which of the 2 bolded words is used as criticism in the quote. I wrongly picked battleground, but the answer is grind. Thus, would someone please explain any nuances or oversights about these words? Also, did I choose the right definition for grind? My guess is:

grind = 2. Hard dull work

How's this criticism? The passage just refers to a process necessary 'in the pre-computer era'?

Wouldn't battlefield signify criticism? In the passage, Hodges criticises the syllabus at key stages 3 & 4?

  • This article discusses topics that are also discussed on matheducators.stackexchange.com . Based on a quick reading of the article, it sounds like British methods of teaching math to elementary school students are even worse than American methods.
    – Jasper
    Oct 18, 2014 at 21:17

1 Answer 1


The original poster has identified a correct meaning of "grind", and presumably understands "battleground" correctly.

As the original poster correctly notes, Hodges is using the word "battleground" to identify an area where Hodges should criticize the work of math popularizers. But the word "battleground" is not criticism per se.

Notice that the phrase "relentless grind of" is not necessary to describe "long calculation". The only reason that an author would add this phrase is to add an emotional characterization of "long calculation". In other words, either the reviewer or Hodges uses the word "grind" to criticize those who continue to expect people to perform "long calculation[s]". (It is not clear from the passage whether this criticism is by the reviewer, or by Hodges.)

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