One of the justifications for the Olympic budget is the pious hope that people will be inspired to participate in sport more than hitherto. No previous Olympic games achieved this, and it’s easy to see why. The Olympics offer a model of sporting activity that is unavailable to most and unattractive to almost everybody. Running 150 miles each week is not an option or an aspiration for all but a handful of talents. If the powers that be really want to raise levels of participation, they should offer the models suited to the mass of the population, with facilities to match (proper cycle lanes, school sports fields, local swimming pools,etc.). There are rewards that come from participating in sport at a very low level, but you’d never know it from watching the Olympics.
This matters to the DMJ because the same point applies to mental activity. Tales of geniuses making astounding breakthroughs will not encourage kids into mathematics any more than Olympic gold will inspire sedentary Britons to take moderate exercise. What we need are images of middling intellects getting something valuable out of mathematics. This is especially important because in our assessment-driven system, children know from early on where they stand in the intellectual league tables. The great majority know themselves to be middling intellects long before they make decisions about what to study. We need stories about mathematics and illustrations of its value that speak to children thus informed.