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Author Archives: Alexandre Borovik
Three reports from trials of Turkish undergraduate students
U. Karhumaki, Turkish undergraduate students on trial, The De Morgan Gazette 11 no. 1 (2019), 1-8. bit.ly/2UmtVmu
Abstract: Last year in Turkey, 32 undergraduate students from the Bogazici University faced prosecution for taking part in an antiwar demonstration on the campus of their university. Among them, there were two mathematics undergraduates. This attracted my attention to the case, and I attended, as an independent international observer, the second court hearing of their trial. In this paper, I describe in detail the procedure and the outcome of this court hearing.
A. Deloro, Justice Spring and the Caglayan College (On some hearings of October 15, 2019 before the 32nd Court, The De Morgan Gazette 11 no. 2 (2019), 9-14. bit.ly/2PJsZtl
Abstract: On October 15, 2019, I attended as an observer one of the hearings in the trial against thirty Turkish students from Bogazici University charged with terrorist propaganda after a spontaneous counter-demonstration on their campus (March 2018), a crime punished with one to five years in prison. They are judged by the 32nd Court in Istanbul. One of their previous hearings was observed and reported on by Ulla Karhumaki [see above].The trial should end on January 31st, 2020.
G. Cherlin, A. Deloro, and U. Karhumaki, A Verdict in the Bogazici University ‘Turkish Delights’ Trial, The De Morgan Gazette 12 no. 1 (2020), 1-13. bit.ly/2R5lZXP
On 31 January 2020, we observed the sixth and last hearing in the trial of thirty students from Bogaziçi University, among them two Turkish mathematics students, who were charged with terrorist propaganda after an on-campus demonstration in March 2018.
The 32nd Court in Istanbul sentenced one of the two students in question to a suspended, 10 month imprisonment term (a verdict applied to 20 of the 30 students charged); and the other to a 10 month imprisonment term converted to a fine of 6,000 Turkish lira (a verdict applied to 7 students in total, with the remaining 3 acquitted).
Views expressed here are those of the observers, and do not represent positions taken by the societies to whom they will report.
Funded PhD studentship available
An ESRC-funded PhD studentship is available for October 2019 start in the Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University. The project is entitled Reasoning Skills in Post-16 Mathematics Students and the successful applicant will work with supervisors Lara Alcock and Nina Attridge and with collaborative partners Mathematics in Education and Industry.
The studentship can include an additional first year spent developing skills relevant to educational research via a research methods master’s. So the opportunity would ideally suit a well-qualified mathematics student or teacher who is interested in moving into research.
For full details and application instructions, see https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/mgsdtp/collaborativeandjoint/alcock_loughborough_-_collab_advert_2019.pdf
Application deadline: 29th March 2019
PhD position in mathematics education at the Open University , England
Dear Colleagues Please could you pass on details of this PhD project in Mathematics Education to those who may be interested. Project: Critical analysis of the languages of functional and graphical change in secondary mathematics classrooms Institution: The Open University, Milton Keynes, England. Details: http://www.mathematics.open.ac.uk/sites/www.mathematics.open.ac.uk/files/phdprojects/2019/2019projectCS.pdf
Applications for full-time PhD study to commence 1st October 2019 are now invited. Opportunities are available for both full-time and part-time PhD study, and two studentships will be available for allocation to full-time applicants, which cover fees, include a stipend (£14,999 per annum for 2019-20) plus £1250 travel allowance each year. Application deadline: Friday, 8th March 2019 More details and how to apply: http://www.mathematics.open.ac.uk/study/phd
Best wishes – Cathy Smith
James D. Watson: “Extend yourself intellectually through courses that initially frighten you”
The famous geneticist James Watson, of the double helix fame, about his relations with mathematics:
All through my undergraduate days I worried that my limited mathematical talents might keep me from being more than a naturalist. In deciding to go for the gene, whose essence was surely in its molecular properties, there seemed no choice but to tackle my weakness head-on. Not only was math at the heart of virtually all physics, but the forces at work in three-dimensional molecular structures could not be described except with math. Only by taking higher math courses would I develop sufficient comfort to work at the leading edge of my field, even if I never got near the leading edge of math. And so my Bs in two genuinely tough math courses were worth far more in confidence capital than any A I would likely have received in a biology course, no matter how demanding. Though I would never use the full extent of the analytical methods I had learned, the Poisson distribution analyses needed to do most phage experiments soon became satisfying instead of a source of crippling anxiety.
[From J. D. Watson, Avoid Boring People, Vintage Books, New York, 2010, p. 51]
Mathematics for teachers of mathematics
A new paper at The De Morgan Gazette:
A. Borovik, Mathematics for teachers of mathematics, The De Morgan Gazette 10 no. 2 (2018), 11-25. bit.ly/2NWECtn
The paper contains a sketch of a BSc Hons degree programme Mathematics (for
Mathematics Education). It can be seen as a comment on Gardiner (2018) where
he suggests that the current dire state of mathematics education in England cannot
be improved without an improved structure for the preparation and training of
Effective preparation and training requires a limited number of national institutional units, linked as part of a national effort, and subject to central guidance. For recruitment and provision to be efficient and effective, each unit should deal with a significant number of students in each area of specialism (say 20–100). In most systems the initial period of preparation tends to be either
- a “degree programme” of 4–5 years (e.g. for primary teachers), with substantial subject-specific elements, or
- an initial specialist, subject-based degree (of 3+ years), followed by (usually 2 years) of pedagogical and didactical training, with some school experience.
This paper suggests possible content, and didactic principles, of
a new kind of “initial specialist, subject-based degree” designed for intending teachers.
This text is only a proof of concept; most details are omitted; those that are given
demonstrate, I hope, that a new degree would provide a fresh and vibrant approach
to education of future teachers of mathematics.
UKRI: Accelerating the transition to full and immediate Open Access to scientific publications
Plan S: Accelerating the transition to full and immediate Open Access to scientific publications
Since the LMS critcally depends on income from publishing, it has serious implications for out Society.
The key principle of the Plan is as follows:
“After 1 January 2020 scientific publications on the results from research funded by public grants provided by national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.”
- Authors retain copyright of their publication with no restrictions. All publications must be published under an open license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY. In all cases, the license applied should fulfil the requirements defined by the Berlin Declaration;
- The Funders will ensure jointly the establishment of robust criteria and requirements for the services that compliant high quality Open Access journals and Open Access platforms must provide;
- In case such high quality Open Access journals or platforms do not yet exist, the Funders will, in a coordinated way, provide incentives to establish and support them when appropriate; support will also be provided for Open Access infrastructures where necessary;
- Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by the Funders or universities, not by individual researchers; it is acknowledged that all scientists should be able to publish their work Open Access even if their institutions have limited means;
- When Open Access publication fees are applied, their funding is standardised and capped (across Europe);
- The Funders will ask universities, research organisations, and libraries to align their policies and strategies, notably to ensure transparency;
- The above principles shall apply to all types of scholarly publications, but it is understood that the timeline to achieve Open Access for monographs and books may be longer than 1 January 2020;
- The importance of open archives and repositories for hosting research outputs is acknowledged because of their long-term archiving function and their potential for editorial innovation;
- The `hybrid’ model of publishing is not compliant with the above principles;
- The Funders will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliance.
Towards an effective national structure for teacher preparation and support in mathematics
A new paper at The De Morgan Gazette:
A. D. Gardiner, Towards an effective national structure for teacher preparation and support in mathematics, The De Morgan Gazette 10 no. 1 (2018), 1-10. bit.ly/2N9NU7W
The fragmented, learn-on-the-job English model for ITE is not working.About this there is little dispute. We analyse why such a system cannotpossibly work for mathematics teaching. We also suggest the need for an improved national framework for teacher preparation and development, based on a limited number of specialist centres, which accumulate expertise over time, and through which planned programmes might be effectively delivered.
The teacher labour market in England: shortages, subject expertise and incentives
This Report from Education Policy Institute made news today: BBC, The Guardian, The Independent. PDF File.
Some of key findings (edited with focus on mathematics):
Teacher shortages and other pressures
- Pupil numbers have risen by around 10 % since 2010 – while teacher numbers have remained steady. This means that pupil-to-teacher ratios have risen from around 15.5 in 2010 to nearly 17 by 2018.
- Teacher training applications are down by 5%, while training targets have been persistently missed in maths and science.
- Exit rates have also increased, and are particularly high early on in teachers’ careers. Only 60% of teachers remained in state-funded schools five years after starting. For ‘high-priority’ subjects like physics and maths, this 5-year retention drops to just 50%.
- Teacher pay has declined by about 10 % in real-terms since 2010 – but the recent announcement of pay rises of up to 3.5 % from September 2018 will halt this real-terms decline.
- With many able to earn more outside of teaching, England faces a great challenge recruiting new graduates. In maths, average graduate salaries are £4,000 above those of teachers.
Highly-qualified teachers: variations by subject
Levels of teacher quality in secondary schools vary considerably depending on the subject:
- Maths and most science subjects in particular struggle to attract highly-qualified teachers – with as little as half of teachers holding a relevant degree. Under 50% hold a relevant degree in maths and physics. These subjects, with the lowest proportion of highly-qualified teachers, are also those with the greatest recruitment and retention problems. […]
Highly-qualified teachers: London and the rest of England
There are stark differences in how highly-qualified teachers are represented in the most, and least deprived schools in England (at KS4). The socio-economic gap is much greater outside of London:
- In areas outside of London, just over a third (37%) of maths teachers […] in the poorest schools had a relevant degree. In more affluent schools outside of London, the proportions are far higher for maths (51%) and chemistry (68%). […]
In London, differences in how highly-qualified teachers are represented are far smaller:
- In maths, the proportion of teachers with a degree ranges between 40-50% for all schools, regardless of deprivation level […]
Tackling teacher shortages: introduce financial incentives
- There is strong evidence that providing salary supplements to teachers in some subjects would alleviate shortages – such as in maths and science.
- Schools in England are able to make such payments already – however, they would have to be drawn from existing budgets, which would present financial challenges.
- The government should therefore consider a national salary supplement scheme, centrally funded and directed by the Department for Education.
- Bonus payments of £5,000 for maths teachers are currently being trialled – yet this programme is limited in scope, and the pilot process may be lengthy. It also fails to target many local authorities that are the most in need of highly-qualified teachers.
- Given the scale and severity of shortages in the teacher labour market, and the known links between teacher quality and pupil outcomes, the government should introduce salary supplements in hard-to-staff areas and subjects without delay.
A degree of uncertainty: an investigation into grade inflation in universities
“Universities are essentially massaging the figures”: this assessment by an unnamed expert is quoted in the short on-line version of the report A degree of uncertainty: an investigation into grade inflation in universities from Reform, a UK think-tank. A fuller quote:
There is considerable evidence to suggest that ‘degree algorithms’ (which translate the marks achieved by students during their degree into a final classification) are contributing to grade inflation. Approximately half of universities have changed their degree algorithms in the last five years “to ensure that they do not disadvantage students in comparison with those in similar institutions”. Research has also identified serious concerns about how these algorithms treat ‘borderline’ cases where a student’s overall mark is close to the boundary of a better degree classification. One expert concluded that “universities are essentially massaging the figures, they are changing the algorithms and putting borderline candidates north of the border”.