Monthly Archives: January 2011

Interim report: ‘Assessing student teams developing mathematical models applied to business and industrial mathematics’

Dr. Edmund Chadwick from the University of Salford has submitted the following interim report for his project.

Interim report (revision) for:
Assessing student teams developing mathematical models applied to business and industrial mathematics.
Project leader: Dr. Edmund Chadwick, University of Salford 

So far, the seminar series given by guest speakers from industry has been completed. This involved 8 speakers in total from a range of business and industry backgrounds, including one speaker from the IMA. The seminars were well-attended and the interaction and participation between the students and the speakers was very good. Feedback from the employers was very positive. Buffet lunch and a speaker fee was provided from the grant.

The students are well under way to completing their case studies, the first entitled: How many hours daylight are there in mid-winter? and the second entitled: What does the most common mortgage repayment method, which is the monthly repayment on a variable APR, mean? Now strong contacts are being made with the participating employers, I am confident of having more company-related case studies originating from the companies themselves to give to the students next year.

I am pleased with the reports submitted so far, and in general the students enjoy the opportunity to be proactive that this module encourages rather than the passive nature of more traditional modules. Negative feedback focusses primarily on a small subset of students that have only attended or contributed in a small way which then disrupts the group dynamics for the other students in the group. I am still working out strategies for next year to minimise this problem.

Their case studies will be presented to employers who will assess them and give feedback. This is yet to take place but has been organised and arranged. Also, the site visits and evaluation of the overall project has yet to be undertaken.

Dissemination is already taking place. This project has been presented by myself in a talk ‘The role of employers’ at the workshop ‘Embedding Graduate Skills in Your Mathematical Sciences Programme’ on 24 November 2010 at Sheffield Hallam University, and also in a case study submitted to the case studies project ‘Developing Graduate Skills in HE Mathematics Programmes’.

Mathematics HE Summit – January 2011

Here is an update I have written, really for a HE mathematician audience, about the Summit:

The Mathematics HE Summit took place at the University of Birmingham on 12 January 2011, operated by the Maths, Stats and OR (MSOR) Network as part of the Mathematical Sciences HE Curriculum Innovation Project within the National HE STEM Programme. This brought together: Heads of Mathematics or their representatives from 25 universities offering mathematics degrees (about half of those in England and Wales); Education representatives from the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, the Royal Statistical Society, the Operational Research Society and the Council for the Mathematical Sciences; members of the National HE STEM Programme, sigma and the MSOR Network; and several individuals.

The day was chaired by Prof. Duncan Lawson and opened with a debate, in which Prof. Alexandre Borovik of University of Manchester proposed and Jon McLoone of Wolfram Research opposed the motion ‘We believe that memory, subject knowledge and technical fluency remain vital for undergraduate mathematicians in the digital age’. Following this, breakout groups discussed the topics: ‘We can’t let them graduate unless…’; ‘If maths students can’t communicate in writing or speak in public – is that my problem?’; and ‘If most maths graduates “aren’t confident” in handling unfamiliar problems – should we care?’ After lunch the Summit received feedback from the morning discussions and an update on employer engagement activity from the Mathematical Sciences Strand by David Youdan. The Summit heard and discussed presentations from Prof. Jeremy Levesley on ‘Taking control of the assessment agenda’ and Dr. Neil Challis on ‘What do the students think about their Maths degrees?’ A final set of breakout sessions considered the topic: ‘Imagine there is £100k-£150k in total available to support curriculum development across the sector, how best should this be targeted and what are the priority areas?’

The National HE STEM Programme is a large scale initiative funded by the Higher Education Funding Councils for England and Wales (HEFCE and HEFCW) which aims to address widening participation, curriculum innovation and higher level skills in the workforce in Mathematical Sciences, Physics, Chemistry and Engineering, with a particular interest in the role of employers in these activities. The Mathematical Sciences Strand is overseen by a group of societies and others, comprising the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), the London Mathematical Society (LMS), the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), the Heads of Departments of Mathematical Sciences (HoDoMS), sigma and the MSOR Network. Within the Mathematical Sciences Strand, the MSOR Network is responsible for HE Curriculum Innovation – exploring current learning, teaching and assessment practices within mathematical sciences departments, and disseminating good practice. The MSOR Network has employed Peter Rowlett to operate this activity, which runs until July 2012.

Initial feedback from the Summit has been very positive. Michael Grove, National HE STEM Programme Director, said, “It was great to see so many people from the mathematics community involved, and great to see so many people present with whom the Programme is currently working.” The Summit provided a day of debate, provocative presentations and discussion which was captured by a group of volunteer notetakers. The findings will be written up for dissemination and used by the MSOR Network when planning activities in the remainder of the Mathematical Sciences HE Curriculum Innovation Project.

Mathematics HE Summit

On 12th January 2011 the Mathematical Sciences HE Curriculum Innovation Project convened a Mathematics HE Summit. This brought together representatives of 25 university mathematics departments, Education representatives from the IMA, RSS, OR Society, the Council for the Mathematical Sciences and people from the National HE STEM Programme, sigma and the MSOR Network to discuss some serious, high level questions about Mathematics HE. The night before the Summit, I recorded some thoughts on what was to come, the structure of the day and what we hoped to get out of it and these are available on the podcast:

6 – Some thoughts recorded the night before the Mathematics HE Summit, Peter Rowlett

We had people taking notes in the discussion sessions and when these are collected we intend to spend some time on a decent write up of the event to disseminate. I hope this will say something of the current state of, and hot issues in, Mathematics HE.