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‘Low barrier, high ceiling’ and the Maths Arcade

I’ve been catching up with the TES Maths Podcast. I just listened to episode 7, towards the end of which guest Brian Arnold shares ‘the Frogs puzzle’. You probably know this, but if not Brian points to the NRICH interactive version which explains:

Imagine two red frogs and two blue frogs sitting on lily pads, with a spare lily pad in between them. Frogs can slide onto adjacent lily pads or jump over a frog; frogs can’t jump over more than one frog. Can we swap the red frogs with the blue frogs?

You know the one? You can play it with coins or counters or people. Anyway, host Craig Barton refers to this as “low barrier, high ceiling”, in that

anyone can do a few moves. So there’s your low barrier, but you can take that, the maths that that goes into! You can extend it to different numbers on either side, everything’s in there.

Much as I dislike the term because it sounds jargony, I realise it describes something I’ve been explaining all week.

Ten years of part-time working

In summer 2003, I put my MSc in computing into part-time mode to take up a part-time job in e-learning in maths at the University of Nottingham. Since then, I have done various combinations of paid work and education, until I handed in my PhD this summer. Viva notwithstanding, I am now only working on one activity: I am a lecturer of mathematics.

This week, I started a full-time contract in this role. This means I am full-time on one activity for the first time since summer 2003. In recognition of this, I hope you won’t mind a little self-indulgence on my part. I have quickly mocked up the following image showing my part-time working life over recent years. Here’s hoping for a period of greater stability in full-time working.

Your suggestions of iPad apps for university mathematics teaching

I asked in the previous post for suggestions of iPad apps that I could use to help with my job as a university lecturer in mathematics. I asked specifically about annotating PDF files I had made using LaTeX and recording such activity. More generally, I asked what other apps might be useful to my job and for other uses I should be thinking about. People made suggestions via comments on that post, Twitter and Google+. Thanks to all who responded. Here is a summary of the recommendations I received.

iPad apps for university mathematics teaching: your suggestions please

New game, everyone! Work have bought me an iPad. I have so far discovered this is basically a touch screen interface through which I can write email, read Twitter and play pinball, but I’ve heard a rumour that it can do even more than that. I’d like you to suggest what else I might do with it.


Explaining things

I have discovered, or perhaps learned how to articulate, something fundamental: I like explaining things. Allow me to explain.

26th July 2004–23rd July 2013

Yesterday, with my tongue certainly in cheek, I tweeted to the BBC Breaking News Twitter account that I had handed in my thesis, with a promise of a press release to follow. Taking the lead from my over-inflated sense of self importance, Christian Perfect posted this news to The Aperiodical News feed as ‘Breaking: Peter Rowlett has submitted his doctoral thesis‘.

Recently, in order to complete the submission paperwork, I went through my PhD files and stumbled upon my original enrolment confirmation. Before the brave new world of online enrolment and online fee payment, I had to go to an office and give money to receive a stamp on a piece of paper. The enrolment slip asks me to keep it safe, which apparently I did.

PhD enrolment confirmation