Survey for teachers of mathematics and science

This survey is part of the Institute of Education‘s work for The Royal Society project “Vision for Science and Mathematics Education 5-19”. A quote:

The Royal Society’s objectives include support for the development of a world class education system in science and mathematics as a contribution both to research and to UK economic competitiveness.  The current research is aimed at helping to redress identified shortcomings in current provision relating to teachers and the science and mathematics workforce, leadership and ethos within schools and colleges, infrastructure and accountability.

What surprises me is that such issues as subject knowledge and mathematical competence of mathematics teachers are not even mentioned in the survey. Look at relevant questions in the survey — they do not mention that!

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Colors of Math

Documentary filmmaker Ekaterina Eremenko is famous for unique, innovative documentaries. Her new film Colors of Math (The Russian title, Чувственная математика - Sensual Mathematics - is better) is an intellectually stimulating and beautifully shot film invites us to look at mathematics from a new angle – as the arena of the senses. To most people mathematics appears abstract, mysterious. Complicated. Inaccessible. But math is nothing but a language to express the world. Mathematics can be sensual. In this documentary, the beauty of mathematics, its sounds, colors, taste, and texture are revealed through the eyes of contemporary mathematical geniuses Cédric Villani, Aaditya V. Rangan, Jean-Michel Bismut, Günter Ziegler, Maxim Kontsevich, and Anatoly Fomenko.

Get more information on the film at http://www.facebook.com/ColorsOfMath, and watch the trailer here. Judging by the trailer, the film deserves promotion by mathematicians.

A still from the film:

Anatoly Fomenko talks about the beauty of minimal surfaces

Ofqual announces changes to A levels

A press release from Ofqual:

Ofqual has today (Friday, 9 November) announced that from September 2013 students in England will no longer be able to sit A level exams in January, after the proposal received strong support following a three month consultation into A level reform. The change will also address recent concerns over how many times students can sit their exams by reducing resit opportunities. [...]

Key findings from the consultation are published today and show support for:

  • the principle of higher education engagement with A level design, however there was less support for universities “endorsing” each A-level
  • students being assessed at the end of each of their first and second year of study
  • the removal of January exams and reduced resit opportunities
  • increasing synoptic assessment in A levels, allowing students to integrate and apply their skills, knowledge and understanding with breadth and depth
  • reducing internal assessment.

Full text of the press release. Related reports:

 

Calculators banned in primary school maths exams

By  in  The Telegraph:

Calculators are to be banned in primary school maths exams as part of a Government drive to boost standards of mental arithmetic, it was announced today.

Pupils will be required to complete sums using pen and paper amid fears under-11s in England are already more reliant on electronic devices than peers in most other countries.
The change – being introduced from 2014 – coincides with the publication of a draft primary school curriculum that recommends delaying the use of calculators as part of maths lessons.
Currently, children are expected to use them at the age of seven, but this is likely to be put back to nine or 10 under the Coalition’s reforms.
Elizabeth Truss, the Education Minister, said that an over-reliance on calculators meant pupils were failed to get the rigorous grounding in mental and written arithmetic that they needed to progress onto secondary education.
Pupils should not use the devices until they know their times tables off by heart and understand the methods used to add, subtract, multiply and divide, she said.

Read full article

Council for the Defence of British Universities

From THE, by David Matthews:

Sir David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins and Sir Andrew Motion are among the founding members of the Council for the Defence of British Universities (CDBU). It will be officially launched on 13 November and will initially focus on building its membership and developing its public agenda.

The council’s initial 65-strong membership includes 16 peers from the House of Lords plus a number of prominent figures from outside the academy, including the broadcaster Lord Bragg of Wigton and Alan Bennett. Its manifesto calls for universities to be free to pursue research “without regard to its immediate economic benefit” and stresses “the principle of institutional autonomy”.

It adds that the “function of managerial and administrative staff is to facilitate teaching and research”.

Sir Keith Thomas, historian, former president of the British Academy and a member of the council, writes in this week’s Times Higher Education that the level of “audit and accountability” demanded of universities by the government is “excessive, inefficient and hugely wasteful”.

In addition, “the very purpose of the university is grossly distorted by the attempt to create a market in higher education”.

He calls for the UK’s higher education funding councils to be scrapped and replaced by bodies truly independent of government.

Professor Thomas, a distinguished fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, was primarily responsible for drawing up the manifesto and instigating the council following a conference in London titled Universities Under Attack, held in November 2011.

Howard Hotson, professor of early modern intellectual history at the University of Oxford, has also been involved with the CDBU since its inception.

He stressed that the launch was designed to build membership rather than put forward fully formed proposals, with a manifesto designed to appeal to a “broad church” that would have to do “a lot of thinking” before it put its full case to the public and the state.

Membership is open to anyone, not just academics, and contributions to the organisation will be voluntary, he said.

The list of founding members also includes Dame Antonia Byatt, Michael Frayn, Lord Rees of Ludlow, Sir Simon Jenkins, Lord Krebs and Sir Paul Nurse.

Read the full article and papers by historian Keith Thomas and astrophysicist Martin Rees.

Ofqual: Review into exam textbooks published

From Ofqual:

Textbooks linked to qualifications are too focused on exam preparation at the cost of subject content, according to new research by Ofqual.

The exams regulator has published its initial findings and action plan into potential conflicts of interest between qualification providers and study aids produced or endorsed by them such as textbooks.

While the report suggests there is only limited evidence that textbooks are having a negative impact on the standards of qualifications, researchers did find evidence supporting concerns about the overall quality of textbooks as learning resources.

Ofqual’s report, entitled Textbooks: Risks and Opportunities, states that “a rather formulaic approach, influenced by current endorsement processes, is resulting in textbooks that are over focused on exam preparation at the cost of subject content and signposting to wider and more in-depth reading.”

Tim Leslie, Ofqual’s Director of Risks and Markets, said: “We want to explore further whether endorsement processes can be improved to drive up the quality of learning resources available to teachers”.

Ofqual’s initial research has also triggered further work which is designed to prevent any activities which could undermine confidence in the exam system.

The research highlights particular concerns about the links between publishing and qualification awarding bodies. Pearson has both publishing and awarding interests. Ofqual is launching a review of Pearson’s publishing and awarding activities, which will focus on the effectiveness of the “business separation” between the awarding organisation and its publishing arm.

The report highlights concern that exam-endorsed textbooks are sometimes written by chief examiners. Ofqual found that breaches in confidentiality of exam questions are very rare. However as part of its wider review, Ofqual will set out what role examiners should have in writing textbooks while they are employed as examiners.

Tim Leslie said: “The research has highlighted a lack of agreement about what a ‘good’ textbook looks like. As part of further work in this area we are looking to establish new guidelines.”

Download the report, Textbooks: Risks and Opportunities

A few quotes from the report which mention mathematics:

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