Steven Strogatz: Whi Pi Matters

Our American colleagues celebrate today Pi Day, although, technically speaking, it is American Pi Day: for the rest of the world, today is 14/03/14. A brilliant article by Steven Strogartz in The New Yorker, a brief quote:

What distinguishes pi from all other numbers is its connection to cycles. For those of us interested in the applications of mathematics to the real world, this makes pi indispensable. Whenever we think about rhythms—processes that repeat periodically, with a fixed tempo, like a pulsing heart or a planet orbiting the sun—we inevitably encounter pi. There it is in the formula for a Fourier series: […]

Read the whole article.

Cameron’s £15,000 for maths and science teachers

From BBC:

David Cameron is to announce a £15,000 university bursary for teenagers with good A-level maths and science grades, if they commit to enter teaching.

This “golden hello” for teenagers is an attempt to recruit more maths and physics teachers for England’s schools. […]

These will begin with pilot projects, with a so far unspecified number of places, which will see incentives for young people to sign up for teaching before going to university.

The £15,000 over three years for potential teachers would help with living costs and would be repayable if students did not go on to teach for three years after graduating

Read full article.

Students Are Not Asking Questions

It seems that this problem, already well-known to many our colleagues, has started to go mainstream:

Students Are Not Asking Questions: A Working Conference to Address a Fundamental Problem in Education

A Conference to Address a Fundamental Problem in Education on July 13 and 14, 2015. 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM at Park Plaza Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts

NRICH Programme Director (Fixed Term)

NRICH Programme Director (Fixed Term)

Salary: £51,702-£54,841 p.a.

Closing date: 26 March 2015

The Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge is seeking to appoint a full-time Director of the very high-profile NRICH mathematics project (http://nrich.maths.org),

NRICH is a successful and vibrant project, supporting teachers and students nationally and internationally. NRICH offers rich online mathematical resources for teachers and learners from Early Years to Key Stage 5, and support and professional development for teachers. The NRICH website currently attracts more than 6 million visits and around 30 million pageviews per year and the NRICH team also works with thousands of teachers and pupils each year through face-to-face activities.

The Director is responsible for the strategic and day-to-day management of the project and leading the exceptional NRICH team. Responsibilities include day-to-day project management and administration; project planning and development; and overseeing and contributing to the development of content for the NRICH website and the delivery of professional development for teachers. The NRICH Director is also responsible for developing and maintaining links with key organisations and the wider educational community, and plays a key role in helping the project contribute to the national mathematics education agenda.

The successful candidate will share NRICH’s vision of mathematics as a rich, creative subject. They will have a first degree in mathematics or a closely related subject; a Masters or doctoral qualification in mathematics, mathematics education or a closely related subject would be an advantage; a teaching qualification and substantial mathematics teaching experience, together with a thorough knowledge of the UK school system, including educational administration and assessment procedures; considerable prior experience of creating mathematics enrichment resources and mathematics teaching and learning materials; considerable prior experience in the development and delivery of professional development for teachers; excellent leadership and teamwork skills; excellent communication and interpersonal skills; and a demonstrable interest in the use of the internet and new technologies in education.

NRICH is part of the Millennium Mathematics Project (maths.org), involving staff employed by both the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Mathematics. The post is held within the Faculty of Education but physically based in the Faculty of Mathematics in central Cambridge. An important part of the role involves building strong working relationships within the University and externally.

Some travel to schools, conferences and other venues nationally and internationally will be required.

For full information please download the further particulars for the post at http://www.jobs.cam.ac.uk/job/6102

How to apply:

Applications must be submitted online. To apply online for this vacancy and to download the further particulars for the role, please visit http://www.jobs.cam.ac.uk/job/6102

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 3 years in the first instance.

Once an offer of employment has been accepted, the successful candidate will be required to undergo an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check.

Please quote reference JR05278 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

Retain Alan Turing’s Notebook for the Nation

E-petition launched by Professor S. Barry Cooper:

On January 19, 2015, the FT reported that “A notebook belonging to the man known as the father of the computing age is expected to fetch at least $1m at auction. Alan Turing’s notebook is thought to date from 1942, when the Briton was leading the cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park in the battle to break the German Enigma codes, the period of his life covered in the Oscar-nominated film ‘The Imitation Game’. The notebook containing 56 pages of handwritten notes was among papers that Turing left to his friend and fellow mathematician Robin Gandy. Cassandra Hatton, senior specialist at Bonhams, called the notebook, ‘probably the most extensive manuscript that exists in Turing’s hand. To be able to look in and see his thought processes is extremely important.”
We call on the Government to liaise with the Science Museum and other major British institutions, to assist in buying this important item, and protecting it for viewing by the British people and international visitors.

If you are a UK citizen, sign the petition.

Barry Cooper’s article in Guardian Northerner.

The Alan Turing Year website

 

David Mumford on Grothendieck and magazine “Nature”

Can one explain schemes to biologists

December 14, 2014

John Tate and I were asked by Nature magazine to write an obituary for Alexander Grothendieck. Now he is a hero of mine, the person that I met most deserving of the adjective “genius”. I got to know him when he visited Harvard and John, Shurik (as he was known) and I ran a seminar on “Existence theorems”. His devotion to math, his disdain for formality and convention, his openness and what John and others call his naiveté struck a chord with me.

So John and I agreed and wrote the obituary below. Since the readership of Nature were more or less entirely made up of non-mathematicians, it seemed as though our challenge was to try to make some key parts of Grothendieck’s work accessible to such an audience. Obviously the very definition of a scheme is central to nearly all his work, and we also wanted to say something genuine about categories and cohomology. Here’s what we came up with:

Continue reading

Andreas Schleicher: Seven big myths about top-performing school systems

A paper by Andreas Schleicher, , at the BBC website. The list of “seven big myths”:

  1. Disadvantaged pupils are doomed to do badly in school
  2. Immigrants lower results
  3. It’s all about money
  4. Smaller class sizes raise standards
  5. Comprehensive systems for fairness, academic selection for higher results
  6. The digital world needs new subjects and a wider curriculum
  7. Success is about being born talented

In my [AB] humble opinion,  this appears to be the case when the negations of myths are myths, too (with a possible exception of no. 7). School systems cannot, and should not, be compared without first having a close look at socio-economic, cultural, and political environments of their home countries.

University Mathematics in Perspective

University Mathematics in Perspective

29th Residential Course for Sixth Form Students
Wednesday 24 – Friday 26 June 2015
University of Leeds, Devonshire Hall

Click here for more details.

Sample lectures include:

“Polyhedra” – John Truss
“Mathematics and Card Cheating” – Kevin Houston
“Funny Fluids and Soft Stuff” – Daniel Read
“The Taccoma BridgeOliver Harlen
SupernovaeSam Falle

Unconscious biases

From  The New York Times: Is the Professor Bossy or Brilliant? Much Depends on Gender. By Claire Cain Miller, February 6, 2015

Male professors are brilliant, awesome and knowledgeable. Women are bossy and annoying, and beautiful or ugly.

These are a few of the results from a new interactive chart that was gaining notice on social media Friday. Benjamin Schmidt, a Northeastern University history professor, says he built the chart using data from 14 million student reviews on the Rate My Professors site. It allows you to search for any word to see how often it appeared in reviews and how it broke down by gender and department.

The chart makes vivid unconscious biases. The implications go well beyond professors and college students, to anyone who gives or receives feedback or performance reviews.

It suggests that people tend to think more highly of men than women in professional settings, praise men for the same things they criticize women for, and are more likely to focus on a woman’s appearance or personality and on a man’s skills and intelligence. […]

Studies have also shown that students can be biased against female professors. In one, teachers graded and returned papers to students at the exact same time, but when asked to rate their promptness, students gave female professors lower scores than men. Biases cut both ways — teachers have also been found to believe girls are not as good in math and science, even when they perform similarly to boys.

Dominic Cummings on Standards in English Schools

A few posts from Dominic Cumming’s Blog touching on issues of mathematics education policy.

Standards In English Schools Part 0: Introduction

Standards In English Schools Part I: The introduction of the National Curriculum and GCSEs

Bureaucratic cancer and the sabotage of A Level reform

A random quote from Bureaucratic cancer …

Some have asked ‘how much confidence did you have in ALCAB doing a good job?’ Answer? Initially not much. They are all under huge pressure to say everything is fine. Initially for example, despite physics departments across the country  complaining about the removal of calculus from Physics A Level (complaints that practically none of them will repeat publicly because of fear of their VC office), it did not look like ALCAB would be much use and they rejected calls from various professors I know on this subject. There is massive political pressure to focus exclusively on the numbers taking an A Level rather than the quality  of the A Level.

But my hope was that by creating something that would be seen as the ‘voice of the university subject experts’, they would have to listen and adapt in order to maintain credibility and avoid embarrassing challenges. There are more and more enraged academics fed up of VC offices lying to the media and misrepresenting academics’ opinions. I thought that creating something would push the debate in increasingly sensible directions where the emphasis would be on the skills needed on arrival at university. Now, everything to do with A Levels is dominated by political not educational concerns about the numbers doing them and ‘access’. This has helped corrupt the exam system. If we had professors of physics, French, music etc every year publicly humiliating exam boards for errors, this would soon improve things from a low base and make it much harder for MPs and Whitehall to keep corrupting public exams.