On 31st January 2008, I gave my first lecture. I was passing my PhD supervisor in the corridor and he said “there might be some teaching going if you fancy it, go and talk to Mike”. And that, as innocuous as it sounds, was the spark that lit the flame. I strongly disliked public speaking, having hardly done it (not having had much chance to practice in my education to date – I may have only given one talk in front of people to that point, as part of the assessment of my MSc dissertation), but I recognised that this was something I needed to get over. I had just started working for the IMA, where my job was to travel the country giving talks to undergraduate audiences, and I realised that signing up to a regular lecture slot would get me some much-needed experience. I enjoyed teaching so much that I have pursued it since.
I just noticed that last Wednesday was ten years since that lecture. It was basic maths for forensic science students. I was given a booklet of notes and told to either use it or write my own (I used it), had a short chat about how the module might work with another lecturer, and there I was in front of the students. That was spring in the academic year 2007/8 and this is the 21st teaching semester since then. This one is the 15th semester during which I have taught — the last 12 in a row, during which I got a full-time contract and ended ten years of part-time working.
I have this awful feeling this might lead people to imagine I’m one of the people who knows what they are doing.
P.S. The other thing that I started when I started working for the IMA was blogging – yesterday marks ten years since my first post. So this post represents the start of my second ten years of blogging.
We don’t regard him as a miller, I’m afraid, we regard him as a very eminent mathematician whose work today is still being used in major industries and concerns.
– George Saunders, descendant of George Green, on being asked a question about bags of flour on the Alan Clifford show on BBC Radio Nottingham of 11th September 2014 (starts approx. 1:16).
The above quote is from a short interview with George Saunders and Kathryn Summerwill on BBC local radio about George Green. Green, of whom you may have heard, was a mill-owner in Nottingham and a genius mathematical physicist. The interview marks the opening of an exhibition, curated by Kathryn, ‘George Green: Nottingham’s Magnificent Mathematician‘ in the Weston Gallery at the Lakeside Arts Centre, University of Nottingham.
Since the British Science Festival’s programme of events for the 2014 festival is now online, you can search through it to find all the mathematical/maths-related events which will be taking place this September in Birmingham. But this is a full-service maths blog, and so you don’t have to because we’ve done it for you. (If you’d rather take a look yourself, the full listing is on the BSA website).
The Further Maths Support Programme (FMSP), which provides support for students and teachers in the UK doing Maths and Further Maths at A-level, has commissioned a series of podcasts, called Taking Maths Further, showcasing different people who work using maths as part of their job, and the mathematical tools they use.
That is to say, the university have sent me a degree certificate, and I’ve shown it to the bank. So that’s pretty darn official.
Some people have expressed an interest in what I am teaching this year. Here it is.
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.