On the Origin of Mathematics and Art in Prehistoric Times

An London Knowledge Lab Maths-Art Seminar
by Francisco González Redondo
Thursday 14th February 2013, 6.00 – 7.30pm

According to the standard view, the history of Art begins in the Upper Palaeolithic era, in the Aurignacian period in Europe, roughly 40,000 years ago. By that time, our ancestors had developed the capability of symbolic thinking, an indicator of behavioural modernity that constituted a significant revolution. But together with horses, deer, goats, bison and mammoths painted on walls (Parietal Art), carved on stone or engraved on bone artifacts (Portable Art), we also find abstract paintings and engravings which contain non-representational graphic marks which can only be understood from a very specific point of view: Mathematics. Indeed, the interpretation of such symbolic register as tallies, calendars, astronomical notations, mnemonic devices and, even, cardinal and ordinal numbers, is experiencing increasing acceptance among archaeologists. In this Seminar we will witness how those first artists, members of our same species, with our same mental capabilities, registered both their artistic and mathematical thinking.

FRANCISCO A. GONZÁLEZ REDONDO is qualified in mathematics, philosophy of science (PhD 1992), and history of mathematics, science and technology (PhD 2000). He has published more than 100 articles and books in the historical field. Since 1993 he is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Madrid’s Complutense University.

TIME: 6.00 to 7.30pm
PLACE: London Knowledge Lab, 23-29 Emerald St,
London, WC1N 3QS
[Travel information & maps at: http://bit.ly/LKL-MathsArt-venue ]

Teaching and Assessing 21st Century Skills

Cambridge Assessment is hosting a debate to evaluate what ’21st century skills’ students are currently being taught, whether they are being properly assessed and recognised and whether the needs of industry and higher education are really being met.

Date: 28 February 2013

Time: 10.00 am – 1.00 pm (registration and refreshments from 9.30 am)

Venue: 10-11 Carlton House Terrace (British Academy), London SW1Y 5AH

Confirmed speakers currently include: Ian Mason, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Darren Northcott, NASUWT; Mike Nicholson, University of Oxford; Niel McLean, Futurelab Research at National Foundation for Educational Research; Irenka Suto, Cambridge Assessment; Professor Richard Kimbell, Goldsmiths University of London; and Paul Andrews, University of Cambridge .

Andreas Schleicher, Special Advisor on Education Policy at OECD will also participate in the event live from Paris.

Visit the meeting’s website for more information and to register for a free place.

More on A Level reform

From THE:

[T]he group of 24 large research-intensive universities will seek to establish an advisory body on 10 A-level subjects to help maintain standards.

The working group on the new standards body will be chaired by Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick, and will focus on A levels in maths, the sciences, languages, geography, history and Classics.

Read the full article.

A major A-level overhaul

From The Telegraph, by  :

[…] on Wednesday Mr Gove will set out a further reform of the qualification – effectively turning the clock back to the 90s before exams were overhauled by Labour.

[…] under the new plan:

• AS-levels will become a standalone qualification with results no longer counting towards final A-level marks;

• Pupils will be able to take new-style AS-levels over one or two years, with qualifications covering exactly half the content of the full version;

• Full A-levels will be completely separate from AS and turned into “linear” qualifications, with all exams sat at the end of the two-year course.

[…] The move is likely to prove controversial among some universities because it will stop them using AS marks to award provisional places on degree courses.

[…] the Russell Group […] would form a new academic board to advise Ofqual on the content of A-levels.

Read the full article.

Royal Institution

 Dear Friends
 You may have read about the possible sale of the Royal Institution. The RI has been a seat of scientific discovery in the UK and is a national treasure. It would be a national and international disgrace if it were not preserved for the nation. It has inspired so many and continues to do so.
Please sign the government petition and forward this email to everyone you think might be supportive.
This link  gives some background.
Thank you.
Rosemary
rosemary.emanuel >>at<<  gmail.com

Free school for mathematics at Exeter University

From The Guardian:

Exeter University […] will jointly run one of the government’s flagship free schools with Exeter college, according to the Department for Education. The school is expected to open in Exeter in September 2014, and will cater for about 120 pupils aged 16 to 19 who want to study maths.

A fifth of pupils will be able to stay at the university between Monday and Thursday, the department said, in a bid to attract youngsters from across the south-west.

From the Exeter University website:

The Free School has been awarded a development grant and is scheduled to open in September 2014, subject to receiving funding agreement. It would be the second planned specialist maths Free School, following King’s College London proposal to open a 16-19 school in London, announced last month.

[…] Students will take maths A level, as well as the STEP (Sixth Term Examination Paper) advanced maths exam, a pre-requisite for undergraduate entry to some of the leading university maths departments.

A worry from Keith Devlin

The Death Of Mathematics
http://edge.org/response-detail/23783

excerpts:

Are we about to see advances in mathematics come to an end? Until last year, I would have said no. Now I am not so sure.
…….
We have,

it seems, become so accustomed to working on a keyboard, and generating nicely laid out pages, we are rapidly losing, if indeed we have not already lost, the habit—and love—of scribbling with paper and pencil. Our presentation technologies encourage form over substance. But if (free-form) scribbling goes away, then I think mathematics goes with it. You simply cannot do original mathematics at a keyboard. The cognitive load is too great.
…..

Lara Alcock: Memories of undergraduate mathematics

Lara Alcock in the OUPBlog:

Two contrasting experiences stick in mind from my first year at university.

First, I spent a lot of time in lectures that I did not understand. I don’t mean lectures in which I got the general gist but didn’t quite follow the technical details. I mean lectures in which I understood not one thing from the beginning to the end. I still went to all the lectures and wrote everything down – I was a dutiful sort of student – but this was hardly the ideal learning experience.

Second, at the end of the year, I was awarded first class marks. […]

Looking back, I think that the interesting thing about these two experiences is the relationship between the two. […]

I don’t think that there was a problem with me. […] Nor do I think that there was a problem with the lecturers. […]

I now think that the problems were more subtle, and related to two issues in particular.

Read the whole post.

Lara Alcock is a Senior Lecturer in the Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University. She has taught both mathematics and mathematics education to undergraduates and postgraduates in the UK and the US. She conducts research on the ways in which undergraduates and mathematicians learn and think about mathematics, and she was recently awarded the Selden Prize for Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education. She is the author of How to Study for a Mathematics Degree (2012, UK) and How to Study as a Mathematics Major (2013, US).

 

Children to be marked up for using long division in maths

By   in The Telegraph:

Long division and multiplication will make a return to maths exams as part of a Government drive to boost standards in primary schools, it will be announced today.

Pupils aged 11 will be given extra marks for employing traditional methods of calculation in end-of-year Sats tests, it emerged.

Children who get the wrong answer but attempt sums using long and short multiplication or adding and subtracting in columns will be rewarded with additional points.

Ministers insisted the changes – being introduced from 2016 – were intended to stop pupils using “clumsy, confusing and time-consuming” methods of working out. […]

Elizabeth Truss, the Education Minister, will outline the plans in a speech to the North of England Education Conference in Sheffield on Thursday.

Speaking before the address, she said: “Chunking and gridding are tortured techniques but they have become the norm in recent years. Children just end up repeatedly adding or subtracting numbers, and batches of numbers.

“They may give the right answer but they are not quick, efficient methods, nor are they methods children can build on, and apply to more complicated problems.

“Column methods of addition and subtraction, short and long multiplication and division are far simpler, far quicker, far more effective and allow children to understand properly the calculation and therefore move on to more advanced problems.”