GCSEs in mathematics are to be toughened

 in The Telegraph:

GCSEs in key subjects such as English literature and mathematics are to be toughened up amid fears pupils are being allowed to pass with a superficial knowledge of the curriculum, it is announced today.

Examiners are being ordered to redraft syllabuses following warnings from the official qualifications watchdog that exams have become too easy. [...]

Today, Ofqual will announce that GCSEs in English literature, mathematics, history, and geography will be re-written to provide the “appropriate range and depth of the subject”.

Glenys Stacey, the watchdog’s chief executive, said the watchdog was “tightening GCSEs in these key subjects to make sure students cover the whole curriculum”. [...]

New-style geography and maths syllabuses will be improved for teaching from this autumn, while history and English literature papers will be overhauled in 2013.


“University dons to vet A-level exam papers”

Julie Henry in  The Telegraph, 19 Feb 2012:

School exam papers are to be vetted by university academics in a radical overhaul of the A-levels set by one of the country’s biggest exam board.
Mathematicians, historians and scientists from leading universities are working with the OCR board on the design of new “gold standard” syllabuses and assessments.
Universities including Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, University College London, Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, Durham, Surrey, Warwick and York are involved in the programme which covers nine subject areas.

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Tony Gardiner: JMC Report: Digital Technologies and Mathematics Education

A. D. Gardiner, JMC Report: Digital Technologies and Mathematics Education. The De Morgan Journal  2 no. 1 (2012), 1-7.

Abstract. This `report‘  was recently published (September 2011) by the Joint Mathematical Council [JMC] of the United Kingdom—of which the LMS is a `Constituent Society’.  It is an important `report’ – though perhaps not for the intended reasons.  The report reveals in stark terms the current level of professional debate about `digital technologies and mathematics education’.  It also raises a number of significant issues relating to how the JMC operates, which we address at the end of our response.

MathJax v2.0-beta available

For the past eight months, we’ve been busy putting together version 2.0 of MathJax, which includes a number of important new features, enhancements, and bug fixes.  The most significant of these are described below.  Today we are releasing a public beta version of MathJax v2.0, available at


which you can load in place of the current version of MathJax that you are using.

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This Journal and Blog provides the academic mathematical community with a forum for discussion of issues in mathematics education and education policy. Their aims are

  • to encourage academic mathematicians to reflect on current issues in mathematics education at all levels—from primary school to graduate studies,
  • to encourage them to explore links between higher mathematics and elementary mathematics,
  • to examine significant policy implications which may affect the wider mathematical, educational, or scientific community.
First posts and papers illustrate, but are in no way exhaustive of, the intended range of themes. If you wish to submit a contribution or a full paper, click here for instructions.
The Blog was quietly set up in October 2011 and since then got more than 10,000 hits, just by word of mouth, proving that it could serve the interests of the mathematics community.  Please help to spread the word futher and, if you have a blog or website, put this link there: The De Morgan Journalhttp://education.lms.ac.uk/

Eton head: Axe GCSEs and leave all exams until pupils are 18

From The Telegraph:

Eton head Tony Little would like to see GCSEs replaced with a more general school leaving certificate which would give teachers more power over what they teach and prevent the syllabus from being dictated by the examination system. The change would most likely work alongside plans to extend the school leaving age and stop pupils leaving at 16.


UCAS: Phasing out tariff points

From THE:

Tariff points should be phased out by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, a Ucas review unveiled on 9 February recommends.

It calls for their “gradual withdrawal” when setting entry requirements and making offers.

Instead, it proposes, all higher education offers should be grade-based.

Many universities have already stopped using the Ucas tariff-point system, which compares A levels with about 1,400 level-3 qualifications, including the IB.

A consultation is under way until 16 April, with a decision on the plans expected in June.

UCAS Announcement (with a link to consultation document)

Whiteboard markers

I am finding that I have to teach in rooms with only low-contrast boards including visualizers and dry wipe marker boards. My lecture theatre has quite a large white dry wipe board but we only seem to have white board pens which make a line about 2 or 3 mm wide, which is invisible to much of the audience even in the best lighting conditions. A quick google indicates that dry wipe marker pens are available up to 5mm.

Does anyone have experience of using these pens? In particular

  1. are the lines big enough to be visible in a large lecture theatre
  2.  Do they last a lecture
  3. Are the alcohol fumes from them a problem?

There are some reviews on Amazon but they do vary by make from one to
four stars.

Also has anyone seen bigger than 5mm ?