“Digital dementia”?

From Julian Ryall’s article in The Telegraph (but the story makes round in the media all over the world):

Doctors in South Korea are reporting a surge in “digital dementia” among young people who have become so reliant on electronic devices that they can no longer remember everyday details like their phone numbers.

South Korea is one of the most digitally connected nations in the world and the problem of internet addiction among both adults and children was recognised as far back as the late 1990s.

That is now developing into the early onset of digital dementia – a term coined in South Korea – meaning a deterioration in cognitive abilities that is more commonly seen in people who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness.

“Over-use of smartphones and game devices hampers the balanced development of the brain,” Byun Gi-won, a doctor at the Balance Brain Centre in Seoul, told the JoongAng Daily newspaper.

“Heavy users are likely to develop the left side of their brains, leaving the right side untapped or underdeveloped,” he said.

The right side of the brain is linked with concentration and its failure to develop will affect attention and memory span, which could in as many as 15 per cent of cases lead to the early onset of dementia.

Sufferers are also reported to suffer emotional underdevelopment, with children more at risk than adults because their brains are still growing.

The situation appears to be worsening, doctors report, with the percentage of people aged between 10 and 19 who use their smartphones for more than seven hours every day leaping to 18.4 per cent, an increase of seven per cent from last year.

Read the whole article.

The De Morgan Journal: change of the name

By a decision of the LMS Education Committee, The De Morgan Journal changes its name to The De Morgan Gazette (ISSN 2053-1451).

The last paper of the old Journal and the first paper of the new Gazette are two parts of Tony Gardiner’s analysis of changes in Mathematics GCSE:

Universities urged to sponsor free schools specialising in maths

From The Guardian

Universities are being urged by the government to sponsor new free schools specialising in mathematics, in a plan supported by the Office for Fair Access (Offa) to encourage talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds to study maths at degree level.

As an incentive to open the new schools, universities will be allowed to fund them using budgets otherwise reserved for improving access to higher education for under-represented and disadvantaged groups.

According to letters from education minister Elizabeth Truss to the heads of higher education maths departments in England, universities will be able to sponsor the new free schools through a fast-track, simplified procedure, and without the competitive application process normally required of those bidding to open free schools.

“This country has some brilliant university maths departments and world famous mathematicians,” Truss wrote.

“But there is no denying there is a big jump between studying maths in schools and colleges – even for those students taking A-level further maths – and what those young people go on to study at university.”

If the scheme takes off, it could create a network of selective free schools teaching 16-19-year-olds under the aegis of their local universities, providing academic support and strong links between higher education and local populations.

Les Ebdon, director of Offa, said: “I’d be happy to see more university-led maths free schools because of the role they can play in helping able students from disadvantaged backgrounds access higher education.

“It is for individual universities and colleges to decide whether or not this is something they want to do, but Offa is supportive of anything that is targeted at under-represented groups and helps them to fulfil their potential.”

The Faulty Logic of the ‘Math Wars’

A brilliant opinion piece by ALICE CRARY and W. STEPHEN WILSON in the Opinion Pages of the New Your Times. A highlighted message:

Mastering and using algorithms involves a special and important kind of thinking.

Read the whole paper. It also contains a great quote from  John Dewey: the goal of education

“is to enable individuals to continue their education.”

Russell Group universities ‘to review new A-level exams’

From ‘s article in The Telegraph:

The Russell Group, which represents 24 leading institutions including Oxford and Cambridge, is to launch an immediate review of exam questions and course syllabuses […] The sciences, maths and foreign languages could be subject to the biggest changes. […] Maths professors have become increasing alarmed at the “overly structured” and “formulaic approach” to the subject at A-level […]

Prof Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor of Warwick, said it would form an independent company – [Alcab],  the A-level Content Advisory Body – to represent the views of Russell Group universities and consult other higher education institutions and learned societies.

It will focus on the “facilitating subjects” seen as essential in the sixth-form – maths, further maths, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and both modern and classical languages.

In a letter to Mr Gove, Prof Thrift, who will lead the board, said it would review these A-levels between now and the autumn to “identify where changes are required to ensure the subjects are fit for purpose”.

It will mean delaying the introduction of new-style A-levels in these subjects from 2015 to 2016 if changes are needed, he said.

Prof Thrift also said that the advisory body would contribute to Ofqual’s “longer-term” monitoring of A-levels “to make sure that new qualifications are reviewed each year”.

Mr Gove welcomed the intervention, adding: “Strong leadership from Russell Group universities, and engagement across the wider higher education sector, is critical to the future development of A-levels.”

Read the full article.

Seb Schmoller: Second report from Keith Devlin’s and Coursera’s Introduction to Mathematical Thinking MOOC

Seb Schmoller updated and expanded his previous Report from Keith Devlin’s and Coursera’s “Introduction to Mathematical Thinking” MOOC.

Seb Schmoller: Second report from Keith Devlin’s and Coursera’s Introduction to Mathematical Thinking MOOC

About a month ago I finished Keith Devlin’s 10 week introduction to mathematical thinking course. This report supplements the one I published in April, which I’d based on my experience and observations during the first six weeks of the course.

Continue reading

GCSE reform announcement

From the official announcement:

In February, the Secretary of State announced plans for the comprehensive reform of GCSEs, so that young people have access to qualifications which match and exceed those of the highest performing jurisdictions.

The Department is now seeking views on proposed subject content and assessment objectives for new GCSEs. Proposed subject content for reformed GCSEs in English language, English literature, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, combined science (double award), history, geography, modern languages and ancient languages, as well as the Reformed GCSE Subject Content Consultation document are available here on the Department’s website. The consultation will run from 11 June until 22 August. We would very much welcome your views.

In parallel with this consultation Ofqual are consulting on the revised regulatory requirements for the reformed GCSEs. The Ofqual consultation will be available here.