Welcome!

Hello, I'm Kevin Houston, a mathematician in the School of Mathematics at the University of Leeds.

I'm standing in an election!

I'm currently standing for election as the Education Secretary of the London Mathematical Society. If you are a member of the LMS, then you will be eligible to vote.

Why me?

The post of Education Secretary is an important one so I was honoured and apprehensive about being nominated by the LMS Nominating Committee. So why vote for me (other than because of the endorsement by the nominating committee)? Well, we have many pressing issues affecting mathematics education. Some of these affect the whole UK, for example Brexit, teacher recruitment and retention, student funding. Some issues are particular to or particularly acute for part of the UK, for example changes to GCSE and A Level, changes to National 5 and Highers, Teaching Excellence Framework, and student debt.

Tackling these problems requires us to work effectively with other learned societies. I am well placed to do so with good connections to bodies such as the IMA and RSS. Furthermore, I am currently working at the sharp end of university teaching (290 already registered for my first year class!) and so am acutely aware of the pressures we are under.

If you want to discuss more, or let me know if there are there any issues in mathematics education that you think require LMS action, then email me: k.houston (at) leeds.ac.uk or use the LMS forum: LMS election forum. I'm keen to know what you think.

My personal statement

More election details can be found here and the following is my personal statement for the election. (We're limited to 200 words)
I have a strong interest in teaching with 27 years experience of teaching in HE institutions and an award for teaching excellence. My education interests are broad, from face-to-face teaching, publications, digital and innovative exhibitions.

We face a diverse set of problems in mathematics education in the coming years. The effects of Brexit regarding the Erasmus scheme, student recruitment, and lecturer employment are all still unclear. To name just a few other important issues: TEF; changes to GCSE and A Level Mathematics; mathematics teacher recruitment, retention and training. The LMS is a vital body in addressing these problems. It represents the mathematics community and can therefore ensure that the deficit in mathematical skills in the UK is closed in a robust and practical manner.

The key to success in approaching these issues is liaising with like minded organisations which I am well placed to do due to my relations with bodies such as IMA and RSS. The current times present us with real opportunities for change. An exciting positive example is the founding of a maths museum, something I am involved in. I am keen to be able to serve the LMS and its members as the Education Secretary.

Research

Picture of ten meshes with local support

My research has traditionally been in Singularity Theory, a long and venerable subject dating back to Newton. Recently I have been working in Discrete Differential Geometry, in particular recent ideas surrounding generalizations of the discrete Laplacian.

My first paper in this area is on compressed manifold modes (CMMs). The Laplace-Beltrami operator on a manifold gives eigenfunctions that are non-zero on a dense subset of the manifold. In certain situations, functions that are zero on most of the manifold but are non-zero on important features are useful. This is what CMMs give us, see the figure on the right for example. In addition to giving a natural ordering of the modes and making some other practical observations, I propose an algorithm that requires on average 47% fewer iterations than the algorithm proposed by Neumann et al who were following in the footsteps of Ozolins et al. See my publications for more information.

If you fancy doing a PhD in this area, then please contact me: k.houston(at)leeds.ac.uk

Mathematical Thinking

My main teaching interest is encouraging (read forcing) students to think, hence the title of my best-selling book, How To Think Like a Mathematician. You might be interested in this taster for it: a free booklet called 10 Ways To Think Like a Mathematician.