Knowsley ends A-level provision

From BBC, 30 June 2016

A Merseyside borough will have no A-level provision after the government approved the closure of the area’s only sixth form offering the qualification.

The sixth form at Halewood Academy in Knowsley will shut in August 2017 after the Department for Education agreed it could stop providing A-levels.

Principal Gary Evans said it was “sad” but left the academy in a stronger financial position.

Education chiefs pledged to get an another A level plan in place by 2017

Read the full story.

Ucas data reveal inequality in university admissions

A paper by Chris Havergal in Times Higher Education. Some quotes:

The first-ever release of Ucas data at institutional level shows that the University of Cambridge admitted only 65 18-year-olds from the UK’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in 2015, while it gave places to 1,260 learners from the most advantaged backgrounds. Taken as a proportion of the total size of these groups, this meant that the most privileged students were 16 times more likely to win a place.

The overall ratio for the Russell Group of highly selective institutions was 7.7, but this remained significantly higher than the UK-wide average of 2.45. At providers with the lowest entry standards, the most privileged students were only 12 per cent more likely to get in.

Read the whole article.

 

Peter Gates: Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice: Meaningful Projects for the Secondary Mathematics Classroom

I’d like to draw your attention to a new book: ‘Teaching Mathematics for Social Justice: Meaningful Projects for the Secondary Mathematics Classroom’. The aim of the book is to share teaching resources and ideas generated from the TMSJ Research Project (a participatory action research project). The book was published by the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in April 2016.
The book is:

* Aimed at teachers of mathematics who are interested in addressing issues of social justice in their classrooms.
* Based on the premise that conventional approaches to teaching maths do not adequately address the needs of all learners or the needs of society as a whole.
* Suitable for students in Key Stages 3 and 4, those studying the new ‘core mathematics’ curriculum and for those on post-compulsory numeracy courses.
* Written in a style that allows teachers to use the ideas in a flexible, creative and non-prescriptive way.
The book contains:

* Seven projects addressing issues of social justice in the mathematics classroom;
* Twenty task sheets designed to be photocopied for students;
* Teachers’ notes offering ideas for supporting and developing classroom practice;
* Six accessible research articles exploring the theories underlying the teaching ideas.

Further details of the book can be found on:
http://maths-socialjustice.weebly.com/teaching-mathematics-for-social-justice-book.html

and on the ATM website:
https://www.atm.org.uk/shop/teaching-maths-for-social-justice-book-and-pdf/act099pk

Dr Peter Gates

 

University wipes out gender pay gap

From BBC:

A UK university is giving its female professors a one-off salary hike to wipe out the gender pay gap with their male colleagues.

The University of Essex is raising female professors’ pay, to bring their average salaries level with the men.

It comes as UK pay data analysis by the Times Higher Education says full-time female academics are paid 11% less than men.

Essex said the move was motivated by “impatience” for change over the issue.

It is not just a step in right direction, it is a step that shows that other universities attempt to  perform moonwalk on the issue.

 

Mathematics Education for the next Decade, September 10-15, 2017

The 13th International Conference of the Mathematics Education for the Future Project in Catania, Sicily September 2015, was attended by 130 people from 22 countries. The next conference will be held NEXT YEAR at Balatonfüred, Balaton lake, Hungary from September 10-15, 2017. The conference title, Mathematics Education for the next Decade, continues our search for innovation in mathematics, science, computing and statistics education. Our thirteen previous conferences since 1999 were renowned for their friendly and productive atmosphere, and attracted many /movers and shakers/ from around the world.

We now call for papers and workshop summaries for presentation at the conference and publication in the printed conference proceedings. For further details and updates please email alan >>at<< cdnalma.poznan.pl

The international conference on E-Assessment in Mathematical Sciences

The international conference on E-Assessment in Mathematical Sciences is a two-day academic conference organised by Newcastle University.

The conference aims to bring together researchers and practitioners with an interest in e-assessment for mathematics and the sciences. It will consist of a mix of presentations of new techniques, and pedagogic research, as well as workshops where you can get hands-on with leading e-assessment software.

The conference website is http://eams.ncl.ac.uk/.

The deadline for talk proposals is next Tuesday, the 31st of May (though that might be extended if we don’t get too many proposals in the next week), and the deadline for delegate registration is the 30th of June.

Thanks,
Christian Lawson-Perfect

Mathematics in the news this week

France DGSE: Spy service sets school code-breaking challenge

France’s external intelligence service, the DGSE, has sponsored a school competition to find the nation’s most talented young code-breakers.

It is the first time the DGSE has got involved in such a project in schools.

The first round drew in 18,000 pupils, and just 38 competed in the final on Wednesday, won by a Parisian team.

 

STEM Competitions Motivate Students :

“The main message is mathematics is not about numbers and figures,” [Mark] Saul said. “It’s about figuring things out. Whenever you’re figuring something out, you’re doing something mathematical.”

Rebecca Hanson Launches A Breakthrough in Maths Teaching for Primary Students :

Rebecca Hanson has opened her agency Authentic Maths to help Primary School Teachers in the UK offering solutions to the difficulties being experienced with the implementation of the Government’s changes to the primary mathematics curriculum.

UK follows Russia’s example to set up specialist sixth form maths colleges:

A key figure in the establishment of specialist maths institutions in the UK was Baroness (Alison) Wolf, a professor at King’s College London. She knew about Russian maths skills because of her work in universities, where maths departments often attract a fair few Russian academics.

Initially, the idea in the UK was for universities to set up a nationwide network of specialist maths schools. However, only King’s College London and Exeter have taken the plunge.

Three PhD studentships at Loughborough

The Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University has three fully-funded PhD studentships available to start in October 2016. Each project is full time for three years.

Tony Gardiner: “The Man Who Knew Infinity”

The film The Man Who Knew Infinity  goes on UK general release from 8th April.

It is a compressed, and beautifully dramatised version of the theme treated more fully in Robert Kanigel’s double biography of the same name – which treats Ramanujan alongside a partial portrait of G.H.Hardy.
Mathematicians can be remarkably unforgiving about attempts to present mathematics to a general audience.  And Ramanujan’s story could so easily be cheapened – with awkward aspects being trivialised, in order to pander to current prejudices.  The Good News is that, not only has this been avoided, but the film manages to incorporate much of the detail and spirit of what we know, while using its dramatic freedom to confront important issues that are often either treated too tritely, or passed over in silence.  The project may have taken 10 years in the making, but the result has been worth it.
As someone who does not usually watch movies, I simply encourage everyone to see it
(perhaps several times), to encourage others to see it, and to use it to discuss the issues which it raises.
A film is not meant to be a reflection of reality.  This film would seem to be a fairly faithful representation of what we know in those areas where fidelity matters. In other respects it  exercises flexibility.  In contrast to Ramanujan, Dev Patel is slim and beautifully formed; yet he manages to capture an essential seriousness and devotion which is entirely plausible.  His wife is portrayed as older and I suspect much more beautiful than the real Janaki; yet her portrayal of profound simplicity is moving in a way that seems entirely appropriate (whether or not it is documented).
In his review for the February issue of the Notices of the AMS
George Andrews suggested that the film will help students appreciate the importance of “proofs”.  In fact, the struggle between proof and intuition, between Hardy and Ramanujan, is not so cleanly resolved, and there is a danger that the film may leave many strengthened in their belief in mathematical invention as “magical intuition”.  So the film should be used to actively encourage a deeper discussion of the relative importance of proof, and what is too often simply labelled “intuition” (as if it were not susceptible to, any further explanation).
Here is a chance to grapple with the often neglected interplay between
   (a) technical, or formal, training in universal methods – whereby my individual “mental
universe” is disciplined to fit with yours (or with some imaginary “Platonic ideal”),
and
   (b) our individual, idiosyncratic way of thinking about these shared objects and processes – whereby my thoughts avoid being mechanical replicas of everyone else’s, and so provide scope for originality.
Without the second, we are little better than machines.  And without the first, we are almost bound to go astray.
Almost all students need a significant dose of (a) before their (b)-type thoughts can become fruitful.  But some individuals’ (b)-type thoughts flourish – mostly unerringly – with relatively little (a)-type formalism. One thinks of Euler, or Schubert, or 19th century Italian algebraic geometers, or Feynman, or Thurston, or … .  The problem is then how to check the resulting claimed insights, to embed them within mathematics as a whole, and to make the methods available to the rest of us.  By neglecting such delicate matters we leave a vacuum that is too easily filled by half-truths.
Tony Gardiner