Discussion Meeting

Where will the next generation of UK mathematicians come from?

18-19 March 2005, Manchester

Supported by Manchester Institute for Mathematical Sciences, by the London Mathematical Society and by the UK Mathematics Foundation.

Some responses to the Preliminary Report  produced by the Meeting

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A meeting with this theme took place on 18-19 March 2005 in Manchester.  Participants represented many different constituencies - including government agencies, the mathematics research community, university admissions, mathematics education, mathematics competitions, teachers, and young mathematicians who have themselves been through the system.  

 

As a result of the meeting, we produced a Preliminary Report . Some of the responses and comments on the Report can be found on this page.  Further comments on the  Preliminary Report are welcome, please send them to Alexandre Borovik,

 

The organisers of the Meeting are not responsible for the content of these responses.

 

 

The Preparation of Mathematics Teachers: A British View. 15 July 2005

 

An article relevant to the theme of the Meeting, titled 'The Preparation of Mathematics Teachers: A British View ' by Peter N Ruane

appears in the MAA Newsletter "Focus" of May/June 2005 at http://www.maa.org/pubs/focus.html

 

Andrew Jobbings

Arbelos www.arbelos.co.uk

UKMT www.ukmt.org.uk

 

Views of an American university lecturer, 15 July 2005.

 

Vladimir Solomonov (Raritan University, New Birobidjan, USA) who taught at five American universities, including an Ivy League university, responded to the comparison of the outcomes of USA and British system of mathematical education contained in the Preliminary Report by offering his Short Rules for Teaching Calculus and Lower-Level Classes in USA. The text was written as an “internal instruction” for foreign newcomers.

 

 

Views of a primary school teacher:

 

As a primary fulltime teaching head with over 30 years experience I share your concern over the decline of mathematics.  I have invariably taught Y5 and Y6 children and have always enjoyed maths. One of the major reasons for the decline in maths is the black hole of KS3 maths.  Ever since the early 70's I have despaired over the fact that bright students return to see their old primary school and almost always report they have done no new mathematics in one or two years.  I can send on bright, motivated pupils who invariably lose interest as they are never challenged.  I taught my own son at primary school and know what work he was capable of aged 11.  He now attends a very successful local school and is in Y10. He has only lately begun to learn much new work.  I now find he can no longer do some of the basic things he had mastered aged 9. I rarely see this weakness at KS3 referred to - but it does exist.

 

Tony Mason

 

 

What should be the output of mathematical education? 4 July 2005

 

Ron Brown contributed a link to his paper under this title.

 

 

Widening participation in higher education, 30 June 2005.

 

Please find attached a paper that may be of interest with regard to the preparation of your discussion document that is being prepared following your March conference.

 

Kind Regards

 

Mike Pokorny

 

 

Mathematicians in the government, 28 June 2005.

 

I have a first class mathematical science degree and I'm working for the government in operational research. I've just read the BBC online report regarding "Where will the next generation of UK mathematicians come from?"  I  thought I'd drop you a line on what it's like once you do get a maths degree and are working in government.
        

Basically you are put in the slow lane. Out of the four analytical disciplines commonly found across government, (economists, statisticians, operational researchers and social researchers) the most natural fit for someone with a maths degree is arguably operational research. Certainly in my department the maths PhDs seem to be in OR rather than economics and statistics, although a few might try the stats route depending on their background. Once you start work, however, you discover that all the economists and statisticians are in the fast stream, while all the operational researchers and social researchers are effectively slow streamers, regardless of merit. This is not something which is discussed during recruitment and interview, and one is certainly not offered a more demanding recruitment process leading to a fast track appointment. Once you have been in post for some time I believe it is possible to make a separate application to the fast stream. However, it is not encouraged and the extra hurdle obviously puts many off.
        
So due to the rather unfortunate choice of maths as my subject I'm effectively denied training and promotion opportunities which are available to economists and statisticians. Essentially, it's hard to shake the feeling that you just aren't valued very much; many get disillusioned and simply take their skills elsewhere. Overall I don't think I would recommend studying maths to someone who wanted to work in the public sector, as the civil service and government does not appear to respect mathematics, despite the warm words we hear. I'd love to see someone challenge the government on it's own attitudes to maths graduates!

 

The websites for GES, GSS, GORS and GSR give further info on the streaming situation between analytical disciplines. The links and equivalent graduate entry grades are given below.
 
http://www.ges.gov.uk/careers.htm (Assistant Economist)

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/recruitment/GSS/default.asp#sto (Assistant Statistician)

http://www.operational-research.gov.uk/ (Scientific Officer)
 
http://www.gsr.gov.uk/careers/ (Research Officer)
 

[Name and address supplied]
 

                                                           

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 Last update 15 July  2005