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New NCETM contract awarded

You may remember that funding for the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM), the mathematics school teacher professional development programme, came to an end in March 2011 and the NCETM entered a “transitional contract” while a new tender took place.

Now the NCETM website has announced that a new consortium has been awarded the contract for the mathematics continuing professional development (CPD) support programme for 2012-2015. The consortium consists of Tribal Education (the previous NCETM contract holder), Myscience (who operate Science Learning Centres), Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI), and the Institute of Education, University of London.

The NCETM announcement outlines the previous work of the members of the consortium and carries quotes from a representative of each member.

Source: Improving mathematics education in all schools: the NCETM to coordinate the CPD support programme for mathematics 2012-2015.

Music and alcohol may improve maths and problem solving skills

The Telegraph is reporting that “Listening to music in maths lessons can dramatically improve children’s ability in the subject”, although the text of the article explains that the technique in question “uses music notation, clapping, drumming and chanting to introduce third-grade students to fractions”.

A paper which the Telegraph says is “due to be published” in Educational Studies in Mathematics apparently reports on a study involving 67 students at a California school, “half” of which used this technique and “scored significantly higher on math tests than their peers who received regular instruction”.

Susan Courey, assistant professor of special education at San Francisco State University and author of the proposed paper, is quoted saying:

If students don’t understand fractions early on, they often struggle with algebra and mathematical reasoning later in their schooling. We have designed a method that uses gestures and symbols to help children understand parts of a whole and learn the academic language of math.

Meanwhile, New Scientist highlights an article in Consciousness and Cognition in which 40 men were given either a vodka-based cranberry drink or a non-alcoholic one after which they took, according to the paper abstract, “a common creative problem solving task, the Remote Associates Test (RAT)”. The abstract for the paper says that the:

Intoxicated individuals solved more RAT items, in less time, and were more likely to perceive their solutions as the result of a sudden insight.


Telegraph: Music helps children learn maths.

New Scientist: Alcohol boosts ability to solve problems creatively.

Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving.

Turing bank note petition

An e-petition: “Put Alan Turing on the next £10 note” has been posted on the Government e-petition website. The text of the petition reads:

Alan Turing is a national hero. His contribution to computer science, and hence to the life of the nation and the world, is incalculable. The ripple-effect of his theories on modern life continues to grow, and may never stop.
The current Bank of England £10 notes are Series E, but Series F notes are already in circulation for some denominations. We therefore call upon the Treasury to request the Bank of England to consider depicting Alan Turing when Series F £10 banknotes are designed.

Source: e-petition: “Put Alan Turing on the next £10 note

Turing sunflower experiment as part of Manchester science festival

BBC News are reporting that “thousands of sunflowers are to be planted in Greater Manchester to try to prove a theory put forward by a mathematics genius”.

The genius in question is Alan Turing who, in his work on mathematical biology, apparently theorised “that sunflower heads featured Fibonacci number sequences”. The BBC article explains that Turing:

wrote a paper in 1951 on form in biology and went on to work up a specific theory to explain why Fibonacci sequences appeared in plants.
However, he never had chance to test his theory…
The only surviving programs which he wrote for the Manchester Mk1, one of the world’s earliest modern computers, are devoted to proving his theories.

The BBC quotes Jonathan Swinton, who wrote a detailed article on Turing and Fibonacci Phyllotaxis in 2004, saying:

Since then other scientists believe that Turing’s explanation of why this happens in sunflowers is along the right lines but we need to test this out on a big dataset, so the more people who can grow sunflowers, the more robust the experiment.

The website for the project, Turing’s Sunflowers, part of the Manchester Science Festival, explains:

We need you to sow sunflower seeds in April and May, nurture the plants throughout the summer and when the sunflowers are fully grown we’ll be counting the number of spirals in the seed patterns in the sunflower heads. Don’t worry – expertise will be on hand to help count the seeds and you’ll be able to post your ‘spiral counts’ online.
The results will be announced during the Manchester Science Festival 2012 (27 Oct – 4 Nov), alongside a host of cultural events connected to Turing’s life and legacy, at MOSI, Manchester Museum and other cultural spaces.

Source: BBC News – Greater Manchester sunflowers to test Alan Turing theory.

A scientific and graphing calculator in Minecraft

Minecraft is a game where you mine and craft. There is a substance called redstone which you can mine, and craft into circuits. Even making simple logic gates is quite finicky. That hasn’t stopped people from trying to make more complicated things like adders.

Somebody has made a scientific calculator with a proper display and a graph plotter.

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I am agog.

Carnival of Mathematics – The Next Generation

Mike Croucher has written a post about the next incarnation of the Carnival of Maths, which we are coordinating.