Interim report: ‘Problem Solving 1’

Matthew Badger, Trevor Hawkes and Chris Sangwin have submitted the following as an interim report for their project ‘Problem Solving 1‘.
Problem-Solving Project – Interim Report

Principal Investigators: Trevor Hawkes and Christopher Sangwin
Project Research Assistant: Matthew Badger

Summary of Progress as of 15 February 2012

1. On 12th September Sangwin and Hawkes meet Project Advisor Imre Leader in Trinity College, Cambridge to discuss project goals and methodology.

2. Mid-September the RA Post is advertised. Five applicants out of 22 were shortlisted and the interviews were help on 13th October. Matthew Badger was appointed and began work on 2nd November.

3. On 22nd November a joint meeting with Sue Pope’s Project Team held in Sangwin’s office in Birmingham

4. To survey the current role of problem solving in English and Welsh HE mathematics departments, a questionnaire was prepared using Google spreadsheets and circulated by email to the Heads of Departments in 60 institutions. This has been followed up with phone calls and contacts with staff responsible for teaching and learning on those departments. To date we have had 30 responses, and we intend to pursue colleagues further to get a higher strike rate,

5. The structure of the Problem-Solving Guide has been agreed. It will contain two main sections (Theory and Practice) and will have appendices covering 6 case studies and a section on the role of mathematics software. The first section of the guide, covering theory, is in draft form.

6. A format for the case study interviews has been agreed and one study based on the Birmingham Moore Method module is in draft form.

7. A specification for the project website was agreed. Matthew Badger will be commissioned to build and populate the site outside his hours of work for the project (according to CU rules, his grade allows the post-holder to do overtime) and this has been approved by the Dean of the Faculty).

8. 6th February – Badger, Hawkes and Sangwin met in Coventry and agreed the following actions:

  • All three of us to meet John Mason at the Oxford Institute of Education on 9th Feb (see below)
  • Sue Pope and Matthew Badger to attend the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics meeting in Manchester on 6th March and give a short presentation about our projects
  • To contact Mike Savage about his HE STEM Modelling Project and arrange an informal joint meeting to discuss our progress, possible overlap, and evaluation.
  • Both projects will present sessions at the CETL-MSOR conference in July and will also approach HE STEM about the possibility running a PS workshop within their September conference, perhaps in tandem with Mike Savage’s modelling project.

9. 9th February – Meeting with John Mason at the Oxford Institute of Education. Discussed plans for the project and the outline of the guide; J.M. agreed to draft an article on the meaning of Polya in the 21st Century, and gave guidance on previous attempts, world-wide, at teaching problem-solving in HE..

10. A number of institutions have been identified for the case studies but a final decision won’t be made until we have more responses to the questionnaire.


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