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300 posts later, who is Peter Rowlett?

This is the 300th post to this blog. At 100 posts and 200 posts I paused for a recap of my current circumstances. This 300th post coincides with the change of calendar year, which seems to bring out a great deal of reflection from people. Nevertheless, I will try not to get too mushy on you!

When I started this blog in February 2008, I had recently begun work as University Liaison Officer for the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, and decided to blog about my travels around the UK talking to university student groups about why they should join the IMA. After 100 posts, in March 2009, I had recently started working alongside the IMA job in e-learning for the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Nottingham.

By my 200th post, in June 2010, I had reduced my hours with the IMA to continue to work for Nottingham. My role title at Nottingham had changed from e-learning to Technology Enhanced Learning and a change of emphasis, as I saw it, from being a teaching support person acting through technology to a tech support person who dealt with teaching meant that I was feeling much less well placed. Shortly afterwards, in August 2010, I finished at Nottingham and, extremely sadly, with the IMA to move full-time to the University of Birmingham. There I work on the Mathematical Sciences HE Curriculum Innovation Project for the Maths, Stats and OR (MSOR) Network as part of the National HE STEM Programme.

The National HE STEM Programme is a major higher education intervention seeking to enable HE to engage with schools, enhance curricula, support graduates and develop the workforce. My part is focused around curriculum development in the mathematical sciences. A major part of this work had us running the HE Mathematics Curriculum Summit, an event this time last year that brought together those with an interest in mathematics teaching at university whose priority recommendations we are acting on in a series of curriculum innovation projects this academic year.

What of the future? The National HE STEM Programme is a three-year initiative which finishes on 31st July 2012 and the Higher Education Academy has withdrawn funding for Subject Centres like the MSOR Network, so my job will end with no chance of follow on work. Of course this means I am quite preoccupied with worries about income in the latter half of 2012. I have a strong interest in teaching and would love it if someone would employ me as a mathematics lecturer. I think my CV is strong for curriculum development aspects and schools outreach but many lecturing posts are really about serious mathematics research, while my research is in the curriculum development aspects of teaching, learning, assessment and support. Even for those few that aren’t, the number of candidates applying for jobs now means that, while I have some relevant teaching experience, my lack of mathematics PhD means I am not at the top of the pile. I believe I would make a good lecturer, strongly interested in pedagogy (as it could improve student learning and the student experience, rather than as a philosophical pursuit), and that I would enjoy such a role. I just need to convince someone else of this, or stop barking up this tree and find something else to aspire to do.

Outside of work, I remain registered for a PhD in e-assessment in mathematics, which I must complete by July 2013. I think this is on track as it moves into a final experimental phase.

At 200 posts, I had recently started a weekly mathematics-based conversation with Samuel Hansen of ACME Science. Well, we’ve just published the 79th almost-weekly episode of the Math/Maths Podcast, which was a review of the year 1811 (not wanting to merely rehash 2011). Samuel and I have started a shared blog for writing practice over at Second-Rate Minds. My write-up of my 2010 Maths Jam Conference talk about a simple puzzle and what I think it can reveal about student thinking got a lot of attention and I am pleased with a piece I wrote reflecting on Hardy’s Apology. I have also been editing posts written by Samuel, which has been an illuminating experience.

I no longer work for the IMA but I remain a member (MIMA) and have a volunteer role on the committees for the East Midlands Branch and the Early Career Mathematicians Group. Having been co-opted to Council of the British Society for the History of Mathematics at my 200th post, I have since been elected to Council and continue to serve in this voluntary role. I remain a STEM Ambassador and contributed a mathematics stall to the East Midlands Big Bang STEM Festival.

About the author

  • Peter Rowlett teaches mathematics at university. His views do not represent those of his employer. His column at The Aperiodical is Travels in a Mathematical World.

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