Mathematical practice: Job opportunity

I am seeking to fill two research assistant posts, one in Oxford, one in Edinburgh.
The description in the job-ad is fairly open, as I am looking for flexibility in thinking about new ideas, and ability to deliver on written work,  rather than any particular technical specialism. The survey paper http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.0900 is the best guide to the thinking.
Professor Ursula Martin CBE
Professor of Computer Science
University of Oxford

Yagmur Denizhan: Performance-based control of learning agents and self-fulfilling reductionism.

Yagmur Denizhan: Performance-based control of learning agents and self-fulfilling reductionism. Systema 2 no. 2 (2014) 61-70. ISSN 2305-6991. The article licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. A PDF file is here.

Abstract: This paper presents a systemic analysis made in an attempt to explain why half a century after the prime years of cybernetics students started behaving as the reductionist cybernetic model of the mind would predict. It reveals that self-adaptation of human agents can constitute a longer-term feedback effect that vitiates the efficiency and operability of the performance-based control approach.

From the Introduction:

What led me to the line of thought underlying this article  was a strange situation I encountered sometime in 2007 or 2008. It was a new attitude in my sophomore class that I never observed before during my (by then) 18 years’ career. During the lectures whenever I asked some conceptual question in order to check the state of comprehension of the class, many students were returning rather incomprehensible bulks of concepts, not even in the form of a proper sentence; a behaviour one could expect from an inattentive school child who is all of a sudden asked to summarise what the teacher was talking about, but with the important difference that –as I could clearly see– my students were listening to me and I was not even forcing them to answer. After observing several examples of such responses I deciphered the underlying algorithm. Instead of trying to understand the meaning of my question, searching for a proper answer within their newly acquired body of knowledge and then expressing the outcome in a grammatically correct sentence, they were identifying some concepts in my question as keywords, scanning my sentences within the last few minutes for other concepts with high statistical correlation with these keywords, and then throwing the outcome back at me in a rather unordered form: a rather poorly packaged piece of Artificial Intelligence.
It was a strange experience to witness my students as the embodied proof of the hypothesis of cognitive reductionism that “thinking is a form of computation”. Stranger, though, was the question why all of a sudden half a century after the prime years of cybernetic reductionism we were seemingly having its central thesis1 actualised.

Ivor Grattan-Guinness obituary

From The Guardian, by Tony Crilly

Energetic historian of mathematics and logic

When Ivor Grattan-Guinness, who has died aged 73 of heart failure, became interested in the history of mathematics in the 1960s, it was an area of study widely considered to be irrelevant to mathematics proper, or something that older mathematicians did on retirement. As an undergraduate at Oxford, he found that mathematics was presented drily, with no inkling of the original motivations behind its development. So Ivor set himself the task of asking “What happened in the past?” – as opposed, he said, to taking the heritage viewpoint of asking “How did we get here?”

Read in full.

Ivor Owen Grattan-Guinness, historian of mathematics and logic, born 23 June 1941; died 12 December 2014

MBE to a maths clubs volunteer

From BBC:

A man who runs free maths classes for primary age children has been recognised in the New Year Honours list with an MBE.

Gbolahan Bright has been running the Bright Academy maths clubs for primary age children in London and Essex for the past 20 years.

“I have gained a lot from this society. I have been blessed and it would have been ungrateful of me if I did not give back,” he said.

Of the 500 or so children who have taken the classes, about 50 gained their GCSE while still at primary school.

Read more.

Retraining 15,000 teachers?

Philip Nye writes in a paper  Cameron needs to rethink maths and science plan (12 Dec 2014) that

Under No 10’s plan, 15,000 teachers of other subjects will also retrain as maths or physics teachers, as part of a “major push” to boost maths, science and technology skills.

However, Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham says: “It’s really easy to say ‘well, physics is science, so therefore there’ll be people teaching biology, or who have done medicine or engineering [degrees] that we can retrain as physics teachers’. But biology is really as different from physics as, say, history is.”

Perhaps the same skepticism can be applied to mathematics.

Mathematics Resilience – making it happen

The Shard Symposium

16th January 2015 10am – 4pm

Evidence is accruing that Mathematical Resilience is fundamental to developing a numerate, empower society. You are cordially invited to attend a symposium designed to explore the next steps to be taken in enabling learners to become Mathematically Resilient.

The symposium is convened to bring together practitioners, funders and researchers to discuss what is happening in enabling learners to develop Mathematical Resilience. It is a precursor to an international conference that will be held jointly by University of Warwick and Open University in November 2015.

The symposium will be held at the Warwick University Business School Offices in The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9SG, nearest underground station London Bridge.

A small charge of £20 is payable for registration, this will be made to cover refreshments throughout the day. You can register for the event here.

Hamid Naderi Yeganeh: Mathematical drawings made from segments

A cardioid

This figure is closely related to a cardioid.

This image shows 1,000 line segments. For each \(i=1,2,3,\cdots,1000\) the endpoints of the \(i\)-th line segment are:

\[\left(\cos\left(\frac{2\pi i}{1000}\right), \sin\left(\frac{2\pi i}{1000}\right)\right)\]

and
 
\[\left(\cos\left(\frac{4\pi i}{1000}\right), \sin\left(\frac{4\pi i}{1000}\right)\right).\]

4th International Conference on Tools for Teaching Logic

June 9-­12, 2015, Rennes, France; http://ttl2015.irisa.fr/

Call for Papers

Tools for Teaching Logic seeks for original papers with a clear significance in the following topics (but are not limited to): teaching logic in sciences and humanities; teaching logic at different levels of instruction (secondary education, university level, and postgraduate); didactic software; facing some difficulties concerning what to teach; international postgraduate programs; resources and challenges for e­Learning Logic; teaching Argumentation Theory, Critical Thinking and Informal Logic; teaching specific topics, such as Modal Logic, Algebraic Logic, Knowledge Representation, Model Theory, Philosophy of Logic, and others; dissemination of logic courseware and logic textbooks; teaching Logic Thinking.

* INSTRUCTIONS FOR AUTHORS

Submitted papers in PDF format should not be longer than 8 pages and must be submitted electronically using the EasyChair system. A demonstration is expected to accompany papers describing software tools. At least one author of each accepted paper must be registered and attend TTL 2015 to present the paper or the tool.

* PUBLICATIONS

All accepted papers will be published electronically in the LIPICS style by University of Rennes 1 with an ISBN (a USB key will be provided to the conference participants). After the conference, a special issue containing extended versions of the best accepted papers is going to be published in the IfCoLog Journal of Logics and their Applications.

* CONFERENCE FORMAT

Papers presentations will be presented in parallel sessions along the week. Half-a-­day slot will be dedicated to demo tools.

* IMPORTANT DATES

Paper submission: 30 January 2015;
Notification: 1 March 2015;
Final camera­ready due: 29 March 2015
Conference: 9­-12 June 2015