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The question: A level maths

The subject of A level maths is provoking much industry debate. Do civil engineers really need it?

I do not use maths in my job today.

It really boils down to what a civils degree is for. If it is to prepare students for the everyday work of a contractor or consultant, then what I studied was largely unnecessary. If it is an academic qualification, then some of it was required to derive formulae from first principles. If it is a means of preparing students to do doctorates, work in R&D, or become university lecturers, then it probably was essential.

Rob Kremis, 42, regional construction manager, Bucks

I studied maths to advanced higher level in Scotland, which overlapped nicely with the first year maths at university and made the transition easier. So of course it was essential. With the more intricate calculations now done by computer it is more important than ever to have some understanding of what the computer is doing for us. It helps if you can recognise when you are getting 'rubbish' out.

Without maths you could still be part of an engineering team but you would not be an engineer.

John Park, 54, senior engineer, Glasgow

We had maths for the first two years of our civils degree course, which I actually enjoyed. Some of it has been useful, such as geometry and statistics, but I have to say that a lot of it has really not been applicable to my career so far.

This is not to say that my classmates have not made use of it since, or that I may not yet find myself regularly using matrices or series or some other obscure field in some future occupation.

Luc Koefman, 32, wind farm engineer, France

I studied pure and applied maths to A level. It was essential and I am still using it today, although some of the pure maths was a bit OTT.

Bernard Younger, 52, team manager, Nottinghamshire

I studied maths to A level, and was glad I had done it as I struggled far less than others when I did my civil engineering degree. I have not used all the maths I learnt in my role as an engineer working for a contractor, but it has enabled me to understand problems better, and find solutions. The study of numbers was the most unnecessary part, but was the most interesting at the time.

Matthew Young, 32, Hampshire

I studied maths to OND/HNC and have used most of it, especially in structural analysis and geotechnics. But I have found that basic maths has been the most useful in life. The ability to do mental arithmetic quickly still impresses my children.

Peter Hookham, 42, traffic and ITS engineer, Devon

Maths was an essential part of my civil engineering course. Without it, I may not have fully grasped the origins of my manager's opinion of my latest work when it is equated with the square root of bugger all.

Had the stress and tension aspects of my career involved steel and plastics rather than the office behaviour in local government, then the maths would have been very handy. So keep the maths. It is wonderful stuff that will not be learnt later in life but could be vital for calculating profit/ earnings ratios, discounts and Atkins' share price recovery estimates!

Dudley Swain, 54, performance manager, Exeter

What do YOU think? See page 18 for faxback questionnaire

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