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Paper about student use of a learning space in mathematics

Sheffield Hallam University Maths DepartmentOne of the nice things about working in mathematics at Sheffield Hallam University is the environment in which I work. The maths department is a big, open learning space for students surrounded by staff offices. It’s a busy place, full of activity and plenty of opportunities to interact with students and other staff.

This space was renovated for mathematics a little before I arrived. It was designed to enhance student engagement and to create this sense of community, to allow collaborative learning and encourage inter-year interactions.

Over the last year, we conducted a study of use of the space. This included observations of use of the space as well as questionnaires and interviews with students about their use of the space, including students who had studied in the department in the old and new locations.

The results have just been published as ‘The role of informal learning spaces in enhancing student engagement with mathematical sciences‘ by Jeff Waldock, Peter Rowlett, Claire Cornock, Mike Robinson & Hannah Bartholomew, which is online now and will appear in a future issue of International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology (doi:10.1080/0020739X.2016.1262470).

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.

Shifting decline of mathematical preparedness?

Last year I wrote On the Decline of Mathematical Studies, and ever was it so, which looked at several examples of people complaining that the new generation of mathematics students were not as well prepared as the current one, with quotes from the late 20th C, mid 20th C. and even from the early 19th C. I wondered whether the problem was one of perception, or whether mathematics teaching could really be in constant (or, as Tony Mann pointed out, cyclical) decline.

I have just read ‘Mathematics at the Transition to University: A Multi-Stage Problem?‘, an essay by Michael Grove (of the National HE STEM Programme, which supports my project) which offers an interesting view on this question. Though the complaint, that students are not prepared for university courses, sounds the same, Michael suggests the root cause and manner in which this problem manifests itself has changed. He backs up his argument with findings from several recent reports. His essay is worth a read if you are interested in this issue.

Having identified a possible root cause for the current situation, Michael also makes recommendations for what can be done to address this and points to relevant work the Programme is doing.