MathsBombe from Manchester

 MathBombeFrom the people behind the Alan Turing Cryptography Competition

MathsBombe – the new maths-based competition aimed at A-level students (but open to all UK students in Year 13 (or equivalent) or below) – started this afternoon.   This is the sister competition to the now well-established `Alan Turing Cryptography Competition’ but aimed at an older group of students and featuring mathematical puzzles.  If you know anybody who would be interested in this then please pass this on (or if you know of any way of promoting the competition that we haven’t thought of then please let us know!). The url is:

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Modelling Camp, Edinburgh, March 21-24, 2016

On 21-24 March 2016, ICMS will host a Modelling Camp.  The 3.5 day
modelling camp has 3 main aims

  • To train students and early career mathematical science researchers to
    engage in study groups and similar activities
  • To offer broader skills training – team-working, coping outside of
    one’s comfort zone, introduction to modelling methodology, report
    writing, and enhancing communication/presentation skills
  • To learn how different branches of mathematics can be applied in
    various industrial settings.
  • The meeting will be structured to maximise time for networking and
    informal discussions.
  • This modelling camp will be held in advance of the 116th Study Group
    with Industry (ESGI), University of Durham, April 2016.

Further details, including funding options, are available on the website
Funding has been secured for a limited number of delegates so early
registration is recommended.

MIT Primes

From Richard Rusczyk:

Over the last decade, many students have asked us how to get involved in research. To address this need, we are partnering with MIT PRIMES, which has trained many outstanding high school student researchers over the last several years. MIT PRIMES/AoPS CrowdMath will allow mathematically sophisticated high school students to collaborate on unsolved problems under the mentorship of outstanding mathematicians. CrowdMath begins with a series of Resources for students to discuss over the next couple of months. On March 1, we will release the official research problems, which will be based on material students learn while discussing the Resources.

Our goal is to discover new knowledge! Should we succeed, we’ll produce a research paper based on our collective work.

Visit the MIT PRIMES/AoPS CrowdMath pages for more details.

Barry Cooper, 1943–2015

I am sorry to report the very sad news that Barry Cooper died at his home in Leeds on Monday night. He learned less than three weeks ago that he had untreatable cancer, and the decline was much faster than expected. He was with his family at the end.

Born on 9.10.1943, Barry had been  a leading figure in UK logic since the 1960s. He came to the University of Leeds as a Lecturer in  October 1969, and apart from visits elsewhere (he was a lecturer at UC Berkeley 1971-1973 and came back to Leeds in 1974), held his career throughout in Leeds, becoming a Professor in 1996.  He was a major figure in computability theory, especially degree theory, also exploring in the last 10-15 years wider and more philosophical ramifications. He had many PhD students, some now in leading academic positions, and was also popular with undergraduates as an outstanding and charismatic lecturer. Barry had been exceptionally energetic in recent years, and died  with several papers and books still in progress. He played a leading role in developing Computability in Europe, of which he was President, and also, by chairing the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee, helped to drive the international and hugely successful Turing Centenary in 2012. I and his other colleagues in Leeds will value and remember him for many things, especially his originality and broad vision, and his kindness to more junior people – staff or students, in Leeds or elsewhere. As a researcher, teacher, and academic citizen, he will be a big loss for the logic community, in the UK and worldwide.

UUK response to HEFCE’s Review of quality assessment

From The Disorder of Things:

UUK has just circulated their response to HEFCE [see HEFCE’s Review of quality assessment] which endorses the use of student outcomes data […]. They write:

We agree that a core set of quantitative student outcome metrics should be included in institutional reporting. These should be the benchmarked UK performance indicator set, covering retention, widening participation, 6 months destination of leavers from higher education, plus relevant benchmarked results from the national student survey, primarily question 22 ‘overall satisfaction with course’…

“Discrete Analysis”: standards are set high

Tim Gowers set up  a new journal, Discrete Analysis — an arXiv overlay journal. 

His new blog post shows that the Journal’s standards are set high:

I imagine most people reading this will already have heard that Terence Tao has solved the Erdős discrepancy problem. He has blogged about the solution in two posts, a first that shows how to reduce the problem to the Elliott conjecture in number theory, and a second that shows (i) that an averaged form of the conjecture is sufficient and (ii) that he can prove the averaged form. Two preprints covering (i) and (ii) are here and here: the one covering (i) has been submitted to Discrete Analysis.

Discrete Analysis — an arXiv overlay journal

Tim Gowers starts a new journal:

This post is to announce the start of a new mathematics journal, to be called Discrete Analysis. While in most respects it will be just like any other journal, it will be unusual in one important way: it will be purely an arXiv overlay journal. That is, rather than publishing, or even electronically hosting, papers, it will consist of a list of links to arXiv preprints. Other than that, the journal will be entirely conventional: authors will submit links to arXiv preprints, and then the editors of the journal will find referees, using their quick opinions and more detailed reports in the usual way in order to decide which papers will be accepted.

Read the rest.


OECD: Students, Computers and Learning

This OECD Report is in news (see, for example, Too much technology ‘could lower school results’ at the BBC). What follows are some quotes from the Report related to mathematics.

The results also show no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in ICT for education. And perhaps the most disappointing finding of the report is that technology is of little help in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Put simply, ensuring that every child attains a baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics seems to do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than can be achieved by expanding or subsidising access to high-tech devices and services. (p. 3)

What the data tell us
• Resources invested in ICT for education are not linked to improved student achievement in reading, mathematics or science. […]

• Overall, the relationship between computer use at school and performance is graphically illustrated by a hill shape, which suggests that limited use of computers at school may be better than no use at all, but levels of computer use above the current OECD average are associated with significantly poorer results. (p. 146)

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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.