Three PhD studentships at Loughborough

The Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University has three fully-funded PhD studentships available to start in October 2016. Each project is full time for three years.

Tony Gardiner: “The Man Who Knew Infinity”

The film The Man Who Knew Infinity  goes on UK general release from 8th April.

It is a compressed, and beautifully dramatised version of the theme treated more fully in Robert Kanigel’s double biography of the same name – which treats Ramanujan alongside a partial portrait of G.H.Hardy.
Mathematicians can be remarkably unforgiving about attempts to present mathematics to a general audience.  And Ramanujan’s story could so easily be cheapened – with awkward aspects being trivialised, in order to pander to current prejudices.  The Good News is that, not only has this been avoided, but the film manages to incorporate much of the detail and spirit of what we know, while using its dramatic freedom to confront important issues that are often either treated too tritely, or passed over in silence.  The project may have taken 10 years in the making, but the result has been worth it.
As someone who does not usually watch movies, I simply encourage everyone to see it
(perhaps several times), to encourage others to see it, and to use it to discuss the issues which it raises.
A film is not meant to be a reflection of reality.  This film would seem to be a fairly faithful representation of what we know in those areas where fidelity matters. In other respects it  exercises flexibility.  In contrast to Ramanujan, Dev Patel is slim and beautifully formed; yet he manages to capture an essential seriousness and devotion which is entirely plausible.  His wife is portrayed as older and I suspect much more beautiful than the real Janaki; yet her portrayal of profound simplicity is moving in a way that seems entirely appropriate (whether or not it is documented).
In his review for the February issue of the Notices of the AMS
George Andrews suggested that the film will help students appreciate the importance of “proofs”.  In fact, the struggle between proof and intuition, between Hardy and Ramanujan, is not so cleanly resolved, and there is a danger that the film may leave many strengthened in their belief in mathematical invention as “magical intuition”.  So the film should be used to actively encourage a deeper discussion of the relative importance of proof, and what is too often simply labelled “intuition” (as if it were not susceptible to, any further explanation).
Here is a chance to grapple with the often neglected interplay between
   (a) technical, or formal, training in universal methods – whereby my individual “mental
universe” is disciplined to fit with yours (or with some imaginary “Platonic ideal”),
   (b) our individual, idiosyncratic way of thinking about these shared objects and processes – whereby my thoughts avoid being mechanical replicas of everyone else’s, and so provide scope for originality.
Without the second, we are little better than machines.  And without the first, we are almost bound to go astray.
Almost all students need a significant dose of (a) before their (b)-type thoughts can become fruitful.  But some individuals’ (b)-type thoughts flourish – mostly unerringly – with relatively little (a)-type formalism. One thinks of Euler, or Schubert, or 19th century Italian algebraic geometers, or Feynman, or Thurston, or … .  The problem is then how to check the resulting claimed insights, to embed them within mathematics as a whole, and to make the methods available to the rest of us.  By neglecting such delicate matters we leave a vacuum that is too easily filled by half-truths.
Tony Gardiner

Simon Jenkins: Our fixation with maths doesn’t add up

in The Guardian, Thursday 10 March 2016. A random paragraph:

There is nothing, except religion, as conservative as a school curriculum. It is drenched in archaic prejudice and vested interest. When the medieval church banned geography as an offence against the Bible, what had been the queen of the sciences never recovered. Instead Latin dominated the “grammar” curriculum into the 20th century, to the expense of all science. Today maths is the new Latin.

Read the full article. Refutation anyone?


A. Borovik: Sublime Symmetry: Mathematics and Art

A new paper in The De Morgan Gazette:

Form the Introduction:

This paper is a text of a talk at the opening of the Exhibition Sublime Symmetry: The Mathematics behind De Morgan’s Ceramic Designs  in the delighful Towneley Hall  Burnley, on 5 March 2016. The Exhibition is the first one in Sublime Symmetry Tour  organised by The De Morgan Foundation.

I use this opportunity to bring Sublime Symmetry Tour to the attention of the British mathematics community, and list Tour venues:

06 March to 05 June 2016 at Towneley Hall, Burnley
11 June to 04 September 2016 at Cannon Hall, Barnsley
10 September to 04 December 2016 at Torre Abbey, Torbay
10 December 2016 to 04 March 2017 at the New Walk Gallery, Leicester
12 March to 03 September 2017 at the William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow

William De Morgan, Peacock Dish. The De Morgan Foundation

William De Morgan, Peacock Dish. The De Morgan Foundation.

UK Mathematics Trust: Teacher Meetings

These one-day professional development seminars, held at various venues throughout the United Kingdom, offer maths teachers the opportunity to discover inspirational ideas for motivating pupils across the ability range. They provide a number of ways in which teachers can continue their professional development and all delegates will benefit from:

  • Developing ideas for making maths fun and engaging for students;
  • An interesting day out of the classroom with ideas for creating an engaging and motivational learning environment;
  • Receiving a delegate pack filled with resources to take back to the classroom, along with a CPD attendance certificate;
  • Meeting other mathematics professionals from their region and beyond, with the time to discuss and exchange best practice.

The dates and venues of the 2016 teacher meetings (with links to agendas/speakers) are as follows:

  • 20 May:  Edinburgh University of Edinburgh
  • 10 June: Belfast W5 Odyssey, Belfast
  • 21 June: Greenwich Greenwich Campus, University of Greenwich
  • 24 June: Cardiff Cardiff City Hall
  • 27 June: Cambridge Centre for Mathematical Studies, Cambridge
  • 1 July:    Leeds University of Leeds

Would you like to book a place? Click here for the booking form.

Computers in Mathematics Education: Conference Invitation

Sixth Central- and Eastern European Conference on Computer Algebra-  and Dynamic Geometry Systems in Mathematics Education

7-10 September, 2016 Targu Mures, Romania

After a successful conferences held at Pécs, Hungary (2007), Hagenberg, Austria (2009), Hluboká nad Vltavou, Czech Republic (2010), Novi Sad (2012) and Halle(2014) we are delighted to announce that the CADGME conference continues. The team from Department of Mathematics-Informatics at Faculty of Technical and Human Sciences, Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania in cooperation with the team from Faculty of Engineering, University Petru Maior has volunteered to host the conference in 2016 in the city of Bolyai’s the beautiful Targu Mures/Marosvásárhely/Neumarkt, Romania. As for the last CADGME conferences we want to create a forum for Central- and Eastern- European colleagues, and for all interested academics from around the globe to exchange ideas and nurture collaboration. We hope that you will join us in Targu Mures on 07- 10 September 2016.
Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania

Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania

The Conference website:

Stoke offers to pay tuition fees in maths drive

From BBC: A few quotes:

Stoke-on-Trent is trying to radically improve maths standards in its schools, including by helping to pay off the tuition fees of maths teachers who come to work in the city.

The maths project is aimed at improving the chances for young people growing up in a city where many traditional industries have declined. […]

The £1m maths project, a form of educational urban regeneration, is aimed at attracting bright young maths graduates to a city struggling with industrial decline and academic underachievement. […]

The Stoke project is offering cash to attract new recruits – £2,000 per year for three years towards paying off tuition fees and a further relocation payment of £2,000.

Read the full story


A School Built Entirely Around the Love of Math

in Mind/Shift. A few quotes:

Prodigies in piano or dance can study at schools like Juilliard to develop their musical or performing arts talent. By contrast, nothing like Juilliard exists for children who show great promise at math. But an ambitious experiment will soon change that: In fall 2015, a small, independent school that’s exclusively tailored for math whizzes will open in downtown San Francisco.

The new school takes its inspiration from math circles, an Eastern European and Russian tradition that spread to the U.S. starting in the 1990s. These weekly extracurricular clubs bring youngsters together with a mathematician who guides them in exploring numerical ideas and concepts in depth. It’s often a highly interactive conversation, with the kids avidly chiming in with questions and thoughts.

Read the whole story.

From Russia with Math

Some readers may find interesting this issue, From Russia with Math,  of online magazine Higher Education in Russia and Beyond.

Many authors of articles in “From Russia with Math” are prominent
research mathematicians; Stanislav Smirnov, for example, is a Fields
Medallist. Not surprisingly, they tend to focus on education for people like them.

In my assessment, this is the key message of the publication:

in Russia, high quality academically selective mathematics education remains possible even after the collapse of the system of mass equal-for-all education.