Maths teaching, is it a smart move? If you’ve ever wondered whether teaching maths is your next career move then read this book.

Cathy O’Neill used to work in Wall St. She has something to say about how mathematical models are impacting our lives. She even suggests they might ‘rip up the social fabric’ we have come to expect. That’s quite a thought.

You might wonder why she draws this kind of conclusion. Actually it’s the humble algorithm that’s to blame in her opinion. Those who have never considered algorithms will have probably not yet grasped just how pervasive they are in our lives.

It seems that whatever you do an algorithm will have been a part of the process. Our insurance premiums, whether we are accepted by for a loan etc. are affected by mathematical models. What’s the issue here then you might ask? Surely mathematical modelling must equate to fairness? Aren’t we going to see decision-making based on being fair and unbiased? Anyone involved will know that’s not necessarily the case.

She suggests they are created in a less than transparent way. Often they are unregulated and no one can do much about them especially when things go wrong. You might imagine this is rather dramatic. Yet consider how many times an algorithm scores you in your everyday life. You might be evaluated at work, you might have your health monitored, your loan application turned down. Do you really know the reason? This is what O’Neil explores. She wonders just how society and the individuals that comprise that society might be changed. She thinks it’s time for modellers to be more responsible regarding the algorithms they create. She suggests that policy needs to be crafted to regulate the use of such modelling.

But probably the most important lesson to be taken from this book is the fact we need to take more responsibility regarding these new algorithms that are increasingly governing our lives. Google’s algorithms serve up what we see on the Internet. What long-term impact might that have? Therefore we need to be more aware. We need to become empowered. We need to start posing the questions that challenge. It’s not enough to be passive. Scientific American had quite a lot to say in its review. This is why we need passionate teachers that will allow students to gain the knowledge, skills and thought processes that will empower them. We need teachers of mathematics that understand how big data is actually threatening many of our traditional assumptions.

Weapons of Math Destruction is a must read for sure. Cathy O'Neil is a data scientist and author of the blog mathbabe.org. She gained a Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard and taught at Barnard College. After this she joined the private sector, working for hedge fund D. E. Shaw. After this her role switched to a data scientist at various start-ups. Here she began to build models to predict purchases and clicks. O'Neil founded the Lede Program in Data Journalism at Columbia and is the author of Doing Data Science. So if anyone should have written this book then it was always going to be O’Neil. As the reviewers have said: this book is wise, fierce and desperately necessary. Even more pertinently these are the qualities we need from the next generation of maths teachers. Does that sound like you? Click here to start your journey towards becoming a Maths scholar.

To get your hands on Weapons of Math Destruction click here and let Amazon’s algorithm do its stuff!