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My week at BCME8

This week I’m contributing to the 8th British Congress of Mathematics Education (BCME). If you’re going, I hope to see you there! (I’ll be there Monday after dinner and Wednesday all day; otherwise it’s a normal teaching week for us.)

I’m involved with three sessions – a fun Maths Jam, a ‘how I used history in my teaching’ workshop and a research talk based on half my PhD. Here are the details:

Monday 14th April 2014

A Taste of Maths Jam – with Katie Steckles and some other MathsJammers.
19:30 – we’re one of the after-dinner entertainment options!
Maths Jam is a monthly opportunity for like-minded self-confessed maths enthusiasts to get together in a pub and share stuff they like. Puzzles, games, problems, or just anything they think is cool or interesting. Attendees range from hobbyists to researchers, with every type of mathematician and maths enthusiast in between. Events happen simultaneously in over thirty locations worldwide (mostly in the UK) listed on the website at Come to this event to get a taste of what happens at a typical Maths Jam night.

Wednesday 16th April 2014

The unplanned impact of mathematics and how research is funded: a discussion-led activity
Session F6 – 09:05-10:05
Mathematics is sometimes developed (or discovered) by a mathematician following curiosity with no thought of application. Later, perhaps decades or centuries later, this mathematics fits some application area perfectly. This aspect of mathematics has serious implications as increasingly researchers are asked to predict the impact of their research before it is funded and research quality is measured partly by its short term impact. A session on this has been used successfully in a UK undergraduate mathematics module on how maths interacts with wider society. This explored the concept of ‘unplanned impact’ and views on the phenomenon, as well as its impact on the way research is funded. This workshop will describe the session and demonstrate some of the activities used.
This session is one of a series on the History of Mathematics in Education coordinated by BSHM.

Development and evaluation of a partially-automated approach to the assessment of undergraduate mathematics
Session RI15 – 16:15-17:45
This research explored assessment and e-assessment in undergraduate mathematics and proposed a novel, partially-automated approach, in which assessment is set via computer but completed and marked offline.This potentially offers: reduced efficiency of marking but increased validity compared with examination, via deeper and more open-ended questions; increased reliability compared with coursework, by reduction of plagiarism through individualised questions; increased efficiency for setting questions compared with e-assessment, as there is no need to second-guess the limitations of user input and automated marking. Implementation was in a final year module intended to develop students’ graduate skills, including group work and real-world problem-solving. Individual work alongside a group project aimed to assess individual contribution to learning outcomes. The deeper, open-ended nature of the task did not suit timed examination conditions or automated marking, but the similarity of the individual and group tasks meant the risk of plagiarism was high. Evaluation took three forms: a second-marker experiment, to test reliability and assess validity; student feedback, to examine student views particularly about plagiarism and individualised assessment; and, comparison of marks, to investigate plagiarism. This paper will discuss the development and evaluation of this assessment approach in an undergraduate mathematics context.

Edit 24/04/2014: My paper in the proceedings is now available online:
Rowlett, P., 2014. Development and evaluation of a partially-automated approach to the assessment of undergraduate mathematics. In: S. Pope (ed.). Proceedings of the 8th British Congress of Mathematics Education. pp. 295-302. Available via:

(will not be published)

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