Where will the next generation of
A meeting with
this theme took place on 18-19 March 2005 in
As a result of the meeting, we produced a Preliminary Report for wide circulation, as part of a process leading to a more substantial investigation of the issues and possibilities. A more detailed Discussion Document is in process of preparation. Your comments on the Preliminary Report are especially welcome, please send them to Alexandre Borovik,
and Tony Gardiner,
“On the one hand, the
This is hardly the
efficient market that the Higher Education Funding Council for
In an efficient market, career prospects alone would motivate teenagers to study maths, but this is surely neither realistic nor desirable. If the nation wishes to supply its jobs market, schools maths teaching must be improved and better funding and bursaries provided in universities. Hefce already sets the financial parameters for the student market: why does it fear intervening further?”
“One day senior mathematicians say there is a crisis in the subject that is the bedrock of the sciences, the next day the Higher Education Funding Council for England tells us not to panic and to leave it to the market. In both cases, perhaps they would say that, wouldn't they? Mathematicians are frustrated by the lack of progress since Adrian Smith's critical report on the subject last year, while the funding council sensibly does not want to be called in to offer aid every time a department is in trouble. But if the UK Mathematics Foundation is right about the scale of decline in secondary and higher education, the Hefce response risks looking dangerously complacent.”
in in England in 2000, which divided A-levels into two separate parts - divided
into modules - had been the "most recent and most public nail in the
coffin" of decline.
They had made it "impossible to teach and to assess mathematics in an integrated way", making the subject "less appetising".
The report also described a need to "revive" teaching of the subject to able pupils aged 11 to 16.
The current system of "acceleration", where more gifted children move ahead of their classmates, had "made the problem worse".
It had meant less focus on the "elementary" aspects of maths, which were important to know when moving on to A-level."
"Lost count of gloomy reports about the state of maths in schools and universities? For more than a decade mathematicians have been moaning and the government has responded with inquiries, changes in the curriculum, numeracy hours in primary schools, golden hellos for maths teachers and a plethora of other initiatives in England.
Yet today the angriest report yet is published by a group of mathematicians, calling for drastic action to save the subject. Where will the next generation of UK mathematicians come from, asks the group, drawn from university maths departments around the country, learned societies and the government's curriculum watchdog.
At the moment the answer seems to be "from Russia and Hungary". In many university maths departments nine out of 10 of appointments go to candidates from abroad, while the shortage of maths teachers in schools has got so bad that the Department for Education and Skills has stopped collecting the figures."
· P. Andrews, The future of mathematics: insights from comparative education. [pdf]
· P. Andrews, Quality control of school textbooks. [pdf]
· A. V. Borovik, What is it that makes a mathematician? [pdf]
· A. V. Borovik and T. Gardiner, A dozen problems. [pdf]
· D. French, Subject knowledge and pedagogical knowledge. [pdf]
· D. French, Further thoughts on routes to improvement. [pdf]
· Mathematical Education on Merseyside. [pdf]
· P. Thomas, A view from a mathematics teacher in a sixth-form college. [pdf]
Some relevant official documents:
· London Mathematical Society. Submission to the Select Committee on Science and Technology's Inquiry into Strategic Science Provision. [pdf]
· Ofsted subject reports 2003/04: Mathematics in secondary schools. [pdf]
Participants of the Meeting act in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent position and views of their institutions and organisations. The list includes
Stephen Abbott HMI (Ofsted)
Richard Browne (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority QCA)
Doug French (
Gwyneth Gardiner (King
Jenny Ingram (Sidney Stringer Community Technology College,
Dr Hovik Khudaverdyan (
Dr Mario Micallef (
Dr Karen Page (Department of Computer Science, University College London); web
Jenny Piggott (Faculty of Education,
Peter Thomas (Hills Road Sixth
Mathematics and its Applications IMA)
Professor Alexander Veselov (
Dr George Wilmers (
Dr Helen Carter (Mathematics Programme, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council EPSRC)
Professor Alexandre Borovik (
Dr Tony Gardiner (
· What kind of early educational environments foster students who have the potential to become research mathematicians and which environments tend to have the opposite effect?
Where will the next generation of
mathematicians come from within the
· And what might we do to increase the local flow?
In the mathematical community,
there is a growing concern that the supply of bright and motivated
undergraduate and postgraduate students of
The meeting will produce a discussion document, prepared and agreed among the participants within a month of the date of the meeting, and delivered to interested organizations (DfES, EPSRC, LMS, IMA, RS, MA, ATM etc.). We expect that the Discussion Document will contain
¨ A first attempt to specify the relevant target group and to outline a collection of “profiles”, which indicate the variety of “mathematically able” school students, formulated in psychological and cognitive (and, therefore, curriculum-independent) terms rather than in terms of curriculum attainment.
¨ Pertinent observations on the relevant sections (e.g. Recommendations 4.5 and 4.10) of the Smith Report “Making Mathematics Count”.
¨ An initial attempt to formulate some generic advice to (interested) schoolteachers of how mathematical cognitive traits can be developed and supported in students in the course of routine school work.
¨ Possibly, some advice to universities’ admission tutors.
¨ Discussion of possible “outreach” policies towards schools and teachers of mathematics aimed at raising awareness of the special nature of mathematical abilities.
¨ Discussion of possible “outreach” policies towards mathematically able children.
¨ Address policy issues affecting undergraduate and postgraduate recruitment and career paths for young mathematicians. Discussion of more general policies and structures in the area of education which would create a learning and teaching environment more conducive to nurturing mathematical talent.
FRIDAY 18th March
Session 1: 5.30-7pm. Tony Gardiner
Background: a survey
Session 2: 8.30-9.30pm. Experiences and examples 1 (including both promising and sobering experiences).
The Experience of Merseyside Mathematics Roadshows
Further Mathematics centres and distance learning
Issues arising from UKMT provision of the national mathematics competitions
SATURDAY 19th March
Session 3: 9-10.30am. Experiences and examples 2 (followed by coffee break).
Doug French (with input from Paul Andrews)
Issues emerging from current provision and needs of pre-service and in-service teacher training
Issues emerging from a committed Sixth Form College
Issues emerging from attempts to use university
admissions procedures to encourage schools/colleges to address the
needs of able students (STEP, AEA, FM and all that)
Session 4: 11-1pm. Small groups each with a precise brief to generate ideas.
Session 5: 2-4pm. Towards workable policies (practical, professional and political; small-scale and large-scale).
Issues to be covered:
1. recognising the importance of a (large) "critical mass" of able students;
2. curriculum and assessment (including "Functional mathematics" and the "Extension curriculum and assessment framework");
3. teacher recruitment and training;
4. extra-curricular provision;
5. undergraduate provision;
6. postgraduate provision and post-doctoral career structure.
Tea, Departure: .
Venue and Time:
Chancellors Conference Centre in
from 17:00 pm on Friday 18 March to 17:00 pm on Saturday 19 March 2005.
Last update 4 August 2005