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Help for those delivering university mathematics online

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

In the pandemic lockdown, people have been grappling with delivering teaching, learning, assessment, support and outreach online, and facing the prospect of continuing to do so into the autumn. In response to this, here are four free online events that are coming up where people doing this for mathematics and statistics are offering practical advice.

sigma Online Support Workshop – 29 May 2020

An online webinar, from 10.00 am to 4.30 pm (BST) on Friday 29th May 2020, offering a selection of talks on using different techniques and technologies practitioners of mathematics and statistics support are using.

This is run by the sigma Network for Excellence in Mathematics and Statistics Support, a long-running supportive community association.

Teaching and Learning Mathematics Online (TALMO) – 2-3 June 2020

A workshop on the afternoon of Tuesday 2nd June and morning of Wednesday 3rd June, offering short online presentations on pedagogical and technological issues and practices associated with online delivery. A call for contributions is open now, along with a form to sign up, to be kept informed of the workshop, seminar series, and other activities.

TALMO is a community initiative supported by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, the London Mathematical Society and the Royal Statistical Society.

Talking Maths in Lockdown (TMiL) – Maths communication in universities – 4 June 2020

TMiL is a series of online events from the people behind the Talking Maths in Public series of conferences. The session on 4th June is aimed at “people who deliver maths outreach activities as part of a university or large organisation” and promises to “discuss what people can still do, and how to still access training”. It’s part of a series of five informational sessions, and the others will be released on YouTube (the first one is there already).

E-Assessment in Mathematical Sciences (EAMS) – 22 June – 1 July 2020

EAMS is an international conference mixing practitioners and researchers in computer-based assessment which has run since 2016. The 2020 iteration of EAMS will take place online between the 22nd June – 1st July 2020, and will offer “a mix of presentations of new techniques, and pedagogic research, as well as workshops where you can get hands-on with leading e-assessment software”.

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.

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.


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.