Using social media to engage students – a list

I am running a workshop today on using social media to engage students, particularly mathematical sciences undergraduates. I think this is an emerging area about which little is known. I’ve tried to think of some examples of what you might do with these technologies. What do you think of my list? I’d be pleased to hear suggestions for additions, or stories about when you’ve tried this and how it went, in the comments.


How we assess mathematics students: a workshop at BMC

If you are attending the British Mathematical Colloquium next week look out for a workshop on ‘How we assess mathematics students: a survey and case studies’. This is being run by our assessment project ‘MU-MAP – Mapping University Mathematics Assessment Practices‘.

This project was funded as a result of the HE Mathematics Curriculum Summit, which was concerned that mathematics at HE could benefit from a wider range of assessment methods but that the research wasn’t available to the community to inform assessment decisions. The project is completing a literature survey of assessment practices, developing case studies and studying the costs and effects of change in assessment methods.

The workshop details are available on the BMC 2012 website. The abstract is below:

This workshop will present findings from the MU MAP Project: Mapping University Mathematics Assessment Practices.
MU MAP (supported by the MSOR Network through the Mathematical Sciences HE Curriculum Innovation Project) surveyed assessment practices across university mathematics in the UK and developed resources in the form of case studies of assessment of mathematics at undergraduate level. In the workshop we will present results from a survey of assessment methods in UG mathematics, and invite mathematics lecturers who took part in the project to present their case studies of assessment. We will also discuss the costs and effects of the change in assessment practice in the light of the case studies presented.

5 workshops: Maths Strand Outputs in the National HE STEM Programme

The Mathematical Sciences Strand of the National HE STEM Programme has announced five free workshops to disseminate its outputs. I will be presenting on the outputs and outcomes of the HE Curriculum Innovation Project.

A dynamic one day workshop sharing the outputs of the Maths Strand of the National HE STEM Programme with a wide range of resources to take away for HE mathematics departments.
This workshop will be repeated in 5 different locations.

Click on the workshop below to see the details and how to register:

Booklet: Good Practice on Inclusive Curricula in the Mathematical Sciences

We supported Emma Cliffe (Bath) to run a workshop and co-ordinate a booklet to investigate and share good practice relating to inclusive curricula in mathematical sciences. The workshop, the Maths, Stats and OR Accessibility Workshop, took place at the University of Bath on 21st February 2011. I am delighted to report that the booklet is now available as: Good Practice on Inclusive Curricula in the Mathematical Sciences.

Good Practice on Inclusive Curricula in the Mathematical Sciences

Interim report: “Development and evaluation of methods aimed at individual lecturers for producing flexible and accessible learning resources to enable inclusive curriculum delivery in mathematics”

The following interim report has been submitted by Emma Cliffe and Jane White for their project looking at methods to produce flexible and accessible learning resources in mathematics.


A literature and technology review, coupled with survey responses and some student feedback has been used to define the requirements for the methods to produce accessible mathematical learning resources.

The review of the literature provided confirmation of the formats which departments may need to provide to disabled students and some guidance as to current methods specific to producing mathematical documents. Basic test use of individual identified methods ensured we had an understanding of the current base capabilities of a variety of technologies.

A survey was produced and staff from three institutions were invited to respond. This survey aimed to capture current practise in the production of mathematical learning resources by individual staff. Respondents were additionally asked if they were willing to provide representative samples of their learning resources in the underlying production formats. The survey had 45 respondents from three departments and 16 members of staff agreed to provide representative samples. Of these, 4 staff offered resources for research purposes only and 12 staff agreed that in addition we may report anonymised quantitative data and anonymised partial or full quotations from the files provided. This collection of samples was outside the original planned work but we felt analysis of ‘live’ samples would provide a strong basis for our recommendations as well as forming rich case studies for possible inclusion in the output resources.

A request for input from disabled students in mathematics currently receiving notes prior to lectures received only one response. We were able to mitigate this by referring back to feedback on notes already in production at Bath and we intend to contact students again once we have example resources for them to trial.

Current activities:

The collected case study samples have provided a body of test inputs to the technologies we identified in the literature and technology review stage. Analysis of the provided files, the interaction of these with the identified technologies and of the technologies with each other when working with these examples is ongoing. This analysis is being used to formulate and adjust the recommended methods for producing masters which can be automatically transformed. We will also be able to report on our experiences of working with legacy documents and to refer to case studies in the outputs.

Dissemination activities:

We gave a short report on our work to date at the University of Bath HE STEM Seminar on Monday 30th January 2012.

Future activities:

The collection and analysis of representative samples was not part of the original plan of work. However, the collection allows methods to have a sound footing prior to use by a small number of staff to produce notes for current students and enables us to report on case study documents. The trial and iterative evolution of methods, which was to take place in January will now take place later in the project, be of a more limited nature and start from a stronger base.

The main member of staff working on the project was away for a period during February. In order to ensure that the project reports in May as planned additional hours of work have been assigned to the project throughout March, April and May. The creation of instructions and examples will take now take place alongside the small trial and adjustments to the methods. This will allow the instructions to evolve in a natural way as the staff and students report back on their experiences. Analysis of costs, barriers and risks, the final report and presentation of the project outcomes will take place in May as originally planned.

Invitation: Mathematics Group Work and Asperger Syndrome

The following announcement about a meeting of our working group on ‘Group work’ on 13th March in Bath is being circulated. Please pass this message along to colleagues who may be interested.

Subject: Invitation to working group meeting, 13th March: Mathematics Group Work and Asperger Syndrome

Dear All,

This project is looking at the advantages and disadvantages of group
work used in Mathematics degree programmes especially in relation to
students with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Our aim is to build a community of academics that use group work for
assessment and developing graduates’ skills. We realise that students
with Asperger’s Syndrome may have difficulties participating in group
work thus hindering them from accessing the benefits particularly in
terms of graduate / employability skills development.

Our first meeting will be held at the University of Bath on Tuesday 13th
March from 11am – 3.30pm approx. There will an opportunity for all
involved to share their thoughts and current practices. Speakers will
include Barrie Cooper (University of Exeter) on group work in
mathematics and Daniel Aherne (National Autistic Society).

Please contact Noel-Ann Bradshaw ( and Emma Cliffe
( if you would like to attend the meeting at Bath
on 13th March, are interested in attending a subsequent meeting at
Birmingham or contributing to this work in any other way.

Please pass this message along to colleagues who may be interested.

Kind regards,

Emma Cliffe and Noel-Ann Bradshaw

Interim report: ‘Problem Solving 2’

Sue Pope has submitted the following interim report for the project “PSUM: problem-solving in undergraduate mathematics” (referred to as “Problem Solving 2“).

To date one interactive starting point has been developed and there is a questionnaire available for users to report their experiences:

Picture This!‘ is an interactive problem solving application, to explore the application further, follow the link below.

A short anonymous questionnaire is available here (ethical clearance was obtained via Liverpool Hope University).

There are three other starting points in development: exploring graphs and networks, linear programming and ‘filling shapes’. All will be trialled at Liverpool Hope University and University of Cambridge as a minimum. Hopefully, focus groups will be held with some questionnaire respondents. The problem-solving starting points have been developed using open-source software and will be hosted by NRICH. This means that the longevity and sustainability of the approach is ensured.

Good links have been established with the HE STEM problem-solving project based at Coventry University and we have agreed to work collaboratively on the production of guidance. We will contribute cases studies on the use of the interactive problem-solving starting points. On 3 March we are presenting a joint paper at the BSRLM day conference in Manchester.

The progress against the proposed timeline is included in the Appendix. Progress has been slower than originally planned due to the project lead changing institutions and delays in getting information about some of the interactive starting points for problem-solving to the programmer.

However, we are confident that we will deliver four interactive starting points for problem-solving and contributions to guidance and case studies.


Key Activity Planned Date Actual Date Commentary
Notify mathematics community about the project through all existing networks August 2011 September 2011 MSOR and HE STEM conferences
Appoint technical expert to begin work on virtual problem solving environment August 2011 October 2011 Jason Davis appointed
Seminar for interested parties October 2011 Not held, meeting with other contractor November 2011
HE STEM workshop 26/10/2011 26/10/2011 Attended
Trialling and Evaluation of problems, generation of case studies November 2011 – January 2012 December 2011 – One problem is available for evaluation, three others are in development
Collation of material for problem solving guide November 2011 – February 2012 January 2012 – Working in collaboration with the other contractor who is leading on the development of the guide
Focus groups with students February 2012 Not held. Hope to have at least one focus group before the end of April 2012
Further refinement of problems February – March 2012 March 2012
Draft of problem solving guide and case studies sent for critical review by interested parties/stakeholder representatives March 2012 March-April 2012 In collaboration with other contractor
Independent testing of the virtual problem solving environment March 2012 March-April 2012
Preparation of dissemination materials April 2012
Case studies on problem solving complete 30/4/2012
Problem solving guide complete 30/4/2012
Virtual problem solving environment launched 30/4/2012 This will be a small number of starting points
Report completed 31/05/2012 31/05/2012
HE STEM dissemination event July 2012 July 2012