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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Parents’ Math Anxiety Can Undermine Children’s Math Achievement

From: news@psychologicalscience.org
For Immediate Release

If the thought of a math test makes you break out in a cold sweat, Mom or Dad may be partly to blame, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

A team of researchers led by University of Chicago psychological scientists Sian Beilock and Susan Levine found that children of math-anxious parents learned less math over the school year and were more likely to be math-anxious themselves—but only when these parents provided frequent help on the child’s math homework.

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Evgeny Khukhro: George Boole exhibition opens in Lincoln

From Algebra in Lincoln, a blog maintained by Evgeny Khukhro:

An exhibition celebrating the bicentenary of George Boole simultaneously opened in University of Lincoln http://library.lincoln.ac.uk/news/2015/07/06/george-boole-exhibition/ and in University College Cork, Ireland. The launch event in the University of Lincoln Library on 16 July was attended by Professor Alexandre Borovik, a Trustee of the London Mathematical Society, which awarded a “Local Heroes” grant for support of the exhibition in the University of Lincoln and Lincoln Cathedral. A short speech by Professor  Borovik can be found here: http://education.lms.ac.uk/2015/07/george-booleglobal-hero/ . The exhibition was formally opened by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor  Scott Davidson (who, by the way, mentioned how people in Law Department., when using one of the first computerized databases in 1980s, had to learn Boolean “and”, “or”, “not” and bracket arrangements). The University Librarian Ian Snowley outlined the story behind the exhibition and thanked all the parties contributing to its success.

Professor Alexandre Borovik

Professor Alexandre Borovik (speaking) and Professor Scott Davidson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lincoln

The Exhibition

The Exhibition

The LMS corner at the Exhibition

The LMS corner at the Exhibition

Professor A. Borovik, a Trustee of the LMS; University Librarian Ian Snowley; Dr Mark Hocknull, Canon Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral; Professor Scott Davidson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor

Professor Alexandre Borovik, a Trustee of the LMS; Ian Snowley, University Librarian ; Dr Mark Hocknull, Canon Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral; Professor Scott Davidson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lincoln

 

Merryn Hutchings,  Exam Factories? The impact of accountability measures on children and young people. Report for NUT Full text.

From the summary:

Professor Hutchings finds that:

  • The Government’s aims of bringing about an increased focus on English/literacy and maths/numeracy and (in secondary schools) academic subjects, has been achieved at the cost of narrowing the curriculum that young people receive.

  • Recent accountability changes mean that in some cases secondary schools are entering pupils for academic examinations regardless of aptitudes or interests. This is contributing to disaffection and poor behaviour among some pupils.

  • The amount of time spent on creative teaching, investigation, play, practical work and reading has reduced considerably and there is now a tendency towards standardised lesson formats. Pupils questioned for this study, however, say that they learn better when lessons are memorable.

  • Teachers are witnessing unprecedented levels of school-related anxiety, stress and mental health problems amongst pupils, particularly around exam time. This is prevalent in secondary schools but also in primaries.

  • Pupils of every age are under pressure to learn things for which they are not ready, leading to shallow learning for the test and children developing a sense of ‘failure’ at a younger and younger age.

  • Pupils’ increased attainment scores in tests are not necessarily reflected in an improvement in learning across the piece. Teaching can be very narrowly focused on the test.

  • The Government and Ofsted’s requirement that schools target pupils on Free School Meals with Pupil Premium money is prompting some schools to take the focus away from special educational needs (SEN) children. Accountability is discouraging schools from including SEN children in activities targeted at Free School Meals children even when children with SEN need the support more.

  • Accountability measures disproportionately affect disadvantaged pupils and those with SEN or disabilities. Teachers report that these children are more likely to be withdrawn from lessons to be coached in maths and English at the expense of a broad curriculum. Furthermore, some schools are reluctant to take on pupils in these categories as they may lower the school’s attainment figures. Ofsted grades are strongly related to the proportion of disadvantaged pupils in a school.

  • Ofsted is not viewed as supportive. It is seen as punitive and inconsistent, with the ability to cause a school to “fall apart”. In their analysis of a school, the inspectors also have a tendency not to take on board the way that individual circumstances affect outcomes.

  • The legacy effect of past Ofsted requirements means that these practices are still “drilled in” despite no longer being measured or required. These include the focus on marking of pupils’ work in a standardised manner and the monitoring of lesson structure.

Cambridge Mathematics Framework

Cambridge Mathematics started public discussion of their Framework. This deserves attention. A random quote:

The Cambridge Framework allows for identification of context in the following context types:
• pure (the problem situation is in the world of mathematics)
• academic (the problems arise in the context of academic
disciplines other than mathematics)
• everyday authentic (the problem situation might be met by someone in their everyday life using mathematics in ways that would commonly be used, for example in problems relating to personal finance)
• everyday artificial (problems posed in an everyday context using mathematics in ways that would not be typical in everyday practice)
• critical citizenship (for example, engaging mathematically
with data communicated in the media)
• vocational (situations and problems relating to contexts
involving employment).

We are keen to seek opinion on whether these distinctions would be helpful, in particular in designing and  distinguishing between assessments.

Geoff Smith on X + Y

Reposted from the UKMT’s Newsletter:

In March 2015, the film  X + Y  will appear in cinemas all over the UK. This is a romantic drama, and explores a collection of intense personal relationships. One of the main characters is a teenaged boy (played by Asa Butterfield) who competes enthusiastically in UKMT competitions, and who dreams of going to the International Mathematical Olympiad. Several leading actors decorate the cast (Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Rafe Spall, Jo Yang). The film was made with the co-operation of UKMT and the IMO, and logos and flags appear accordingly. The film has secured international distribution contracts, and will be seen in many countries, and on airlines.

This film grew out of the BBC2 documentary “Beautiful Young Minds”, and the common director is Morgan Matthews. If UKMT were to make such a film (an exceptionally bad suggestion), the emphasis would be much more on the mathematics and less on the relationships. Morgan Matthews has become very interested in the way people on the autistic spectrum can prosper in mathematics. There has been a natural concern in the maths community that portraying some mathematicians as being less than socially fluent is dangerous, because it could lead to the misapprehension that mathematicians are all strange.

My personal view is that the prefix “mis” in the previous sentence can be deleted. All mathematicians are strange because they place such an exceptional value on thought, ideas and understanding. I think that the maths community should be proud of the way it embraces people on the basis of their enthusiasm for and interest in mathematics. University maths departments are happy places, where the socially adroit rub along in harmony with people who live in more private spaces. The trick is mutual respect and affection. This is equally true of UKMT maths camps. Most students are relaxed and outgoing, with the full set of skills that allow them to prosper in the teenage social maelstrom. Some others are not, but everyone gets along almost all of the time, united by a passion for ideas and ingenuity. We all know maths people who sometimes appear confused and nervous, but who have beautiful mathematical insights.

Things would be even better if women and all racial groups were richly represented in the maths community, and UKMT has done excellent work on the gender issue by founding the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad and running the annual talent search examination, the UK Maths Olympiad for Girls. The mentoring schemes make an excellent education in mathematical problem solving available to all social groups. However, while social inclusion is very much “work in progress”, the incorporation of people on the autistic spectrum into the wider maths community seems to be a great success, and in my view, a cause for celebration.

Geoff Smith, Chair of the BMO and the IMO, University of Bath.

Disclaimer: Geoff was involved in assisting to make X + Y, so his views are not impartial.

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.

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.