I was incensed by a radio presenter, recently returned from a French holiday, who asked: 'Who needs algebra and all the other stuff they make you learn at school like sines, cosines, graphs etc which is never any use to anybody.'

I sent him an email pointing out that the people who designed the aircraft in which he flew used algebra and a whole lot of other mathematical techniques he'd never heard of.

I imagine his home is equipped with electricity received from a power station and distribution system, a fridge, a washing machine and a microwave oven, all designed using algebra. The same is true of cars, trains, ships and bridges. He may be surprised to learn that the radio and TV transmitters and receivers on which his living depends were all designed by people using algebra,

Unfortunately his attitude is typical of most people who have no idea how anything works or how it was designed and manufactured. They are however happy to carry on using it. How, if ever, can we change this attitude?

Oddly enough, he didn't read out my email on air.

Denis Sharp

Arundel, West Sussex