Jo Johnson on graduate employment

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, said in his recent speech
Higher education: fulfilling our potential:

We have all been reminded of the scale of the challenge by a recent CIPD survey suggesting that almost 60% of graduates are in non-graduate jobs.

While it may overstate matters — official statistics show that in fact only 20% of recent graduates did not find a graduate level job within 3 years of leaving college — it is clear that universities must do more to demonstrate they add real and lasting value for all students.

In my humble opinion, there are essentially two ways to improve the percentage of graduates finding graduate level jobs:

(a) Increase the number of  vacant graduate positions available, and

(b) decrease the number of graduates.

All other solutions are log-linear combinations of these two. The only option under control of universities is (b). Is this what Jo Johnson wants from the universities?

Added 11 September 2015: A detailed analysis of Jo Johnson’s speech is given by Martin Paul Eve in his post at THE blog, TEF, REF, QR, deregulation: thoughts on Jo Johnson’s HE talk.

INDRUM2016 Update

First conference of the International Network for Didactic
Research in University Mathematics (INDRUM)
March 31 – April 2, 2016 – Montpellier (France)
Second Announcement & Call for Papers

Information on how to contribute to and attend the conference:
INDRUM 2016 is an ERME Topic Conference:

INDRUM2016 is the first in a series of biennial and bilingual conferences that will address all aspects of research in didactics of mathematics at tertiary level, including students’ and teachers’ practices and the teaching and learning of specific mathematical
topics. The conference aims to attract researchers in didactics of mathematics at university level, mathematicians and any teacher or researcher with interest in university mathematics education (UME). The conference programme consists of: a plenary lecture, a panel discussion, thematic working groups (6h each), short communications in parallel (two sessions of 1h30m each) and a permanent poster exhibition. Michèle Artigue (University Paris Diderot, France) will be the plenary speaker. The conference proceedings will be available before the conference and we aim to publish a post-conference book. This conference is part of the work of INDRUM (International Network for Didactic Research in University Mathematics), an international network initiated by a team of researchers in university-level didactics of mathematics. INDRUM aims to contribute to the development of research in didactics of mathematics at all levels of tertiary education, with a particular focus on building  research capacity in the field and on strengthening the dialogue with the mathematics community.

We now invite paper and poster proposals on the following two broad Thematic Working Groups (TWG):

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Teachers Aren’t Dumb

An Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, by

Mediocre teacher preparation extends to mathematics. An international study of new middle school teachers showed that Americans scored worse on a math test than teachers in countries where kids excelled, like Singapore and Poland. William Schmidt of Michigan State University identified the common-sense explanation: American teachers take fewer math classes. Instead, they take more courses in general pedagogy — coursework, that is, on theories of instruction, theories of child development and the like.

Can anyone give references to “an international study of new middle school teachers”? What was UK’s results in the study?

The Secret Question (Are We Actually Good at Math?)

Posted on the AMS Blogs on September 1, 2015 by Ben Braun

“How many of you feel, deep down in your most private thoughts, that you aren’t actually any good at math? That by some miracle, you’ve managed to fake your way to this point, but you’re always at least a little worried that your secret will be revealed? That you’ll be found out?”

Over half of my students’ hands went into the air in response to my question, some shooting up decisively from eagerness, others hesitantly, gingerly, eyes glancing around to check the responses of their peers before fully extending their reach.  Self-conscious chuckling darted through the room from some students, the laughter of relief, while other students whose hands weren’t raised looked around in surprised confusion at the general response.

Preterm Birth Linked With Lower Math Abilities and Less Wealth

September 1, 2015
For Immediate Release
Contact: Anna Mikulak
Association for Psychological Science
amikulak >>at<<

People who are born premature tend to accumulate less wealth as adults, and a new study suggests that this may be due to lower mathematics abilities. The findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, show that preterm birth is associated with lower academic abilities in childhood, and lower educational attainment and less wealth in adulthood
“Our findings suggest that the economic costs of preterm birth are not limited to healthcare and educational support in childhood, but extend well into adulthood,” says psychological scientist Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick in the UK. “Together, these results suggest that the effects of prematurity via academic performance on wealth are long term, lasting into the fifth decade of life.”

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Latest speech by Nick GIbb

Nick Gibb speaks at the Researchers in Schools celebration event, 25 August 2015.

What follows are paragraphs from the text containing the words maths or mathematics.

The Researchers in Schools programme prioritises recruiting teachers in STEM subjects, in particular mathematics and physics. Nobody needs reminding that British employers face ongoing skills shortages in these areas.

One in 10 state schools have no pupils progressing to either further maths or physics at A level, and 1 in 3 physics teachers have themselves not studied the subject beyond A level.

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The Quadratic Formula in Malta’s Learning Outcomes Framework

What I see as a deficiency of the Learning Outcomes Framework is that it does not specify learning outcomes in a usable way.

There are several references to quadratic equations in Levels 8–10, for example

Level 8
Number – Numerical calculations
18. I can solve quadratic equations by factorisation and by using the formula.

If a student from Malta comes to my university (and I have had students from Malta in the past, I believe), I want to know what is his/her level of understanding of the Quadratic Formula.

There are at least 7 levels of students’ competencies here, expressed by some sample quadratic equations:

(a) x2 – 3x +2 =0
(d) x2 – 1 = 0
(c) x2 – 2x +1 = 0
(d) x2 + sqrt{2}*x – 1 = 0
(e) x2 + x –  sqrt{2} = 0
(f) x2 + 1 = 0
(g) x2 + sqrt{2}*x + 1 = 0

These quadratic equations are chosen and listed according to their increasing degree of conceptual difficulty: (a) is straightforward, (b) has a missing coefficient (a serious obstacle for many students), (c) has multiple roots, (d) involves a surd, but no nested surds in the solution, (e) has nested surds in the answer, (f) has complex roots, although very innocuous ones, and (g) has trickier complex roots. Of course, another list  can be made, with approximately the same gradation of conceptual difficulty.

I would expect my potential students to be at least at level (d); but LOF tells me nothing about what I should expect from a student from Malta.

And one more comment: a comparison of the statements in the LOF Level 10:

I can solve quadratic equations by completing a square

and in the LOF Level 8:

I can solve quadratic equations by factorisation and by using the formula.

apperars to suggest that at Level 8 the Quadratic Formula is introduced to students without proof or proper propaedeutics which appear only at Level 10. In my opinion, this should raise concerns: at Level 8, this approach has a potential to degenerate into one of those “rote teaching”  practices that make children to hate mathematics for the rest of their lives.