I’m still waiting for that photograph that will allow me to brag! So here’s something to think about. In the UK, after we teach children to count and do simple arithmetic what mathematics do we teach next? In primary school we teach them the mathematics needed as preparation for mathematics at junior school. In junior school we teach them the mathematics needed as preparation for mathematics at secondary school. In secondary school we teach them the mathematics needed as preparation for GCSE mathematics. In GCSE mathematics we teach them the mathematics needed as preparation for A level mathematics. In A level mathematics we teach them the mathematics needed as preparation for a degree in mathematics. In a mathematics degree we teach them the mathematics needed as preparation for a PhD in mathematics. The extra facts are: “Between 400 and 450 doctorates are awarded in the mathematical sciences in the UK each year” [http://mathfit.ac.uk/activities/research_policy/documents/doc_training.pdf] There are about 14.2 million pupils in education in the UK [Wolfram Alpha estimate for 2002]. (This seems a bit high to me. If I were to estimate the current amount, I would put it at 9 to 10 million, but what do I know?) So in other words, the bulk of mathematics education in this country is targetted at the small number who go on to do a PhD. Is this a fair assessment of our education...

## From an Oxford Hotel: Pi is 4...

posted by Kevin Houston

I’m currently sitting in a hotel in Oxford as tomorrow I am discharging my duties as external examiner for mathematics at Oxford Brookes University. As a postgraduate I regularly visited the city – it was near to Warwick University, my brother lived here for a time and before the birth of Amazon, it was the best place outside of London to find books. And now I’m back to ensure that the maths students of one of its universities are being fairly assessed. Anyhow, this week is probably the busiest of the year. I’ve got the external examining on Monday and Tuesday, a programme review back in Leeds on Wednesday, plus my Geometry exam (good luck guys!), oral exams for projects on Thursday and Friday, marking the exam at the weekend, and then teaching starts again – need to write my contribution to the new History of Maths course! Oh, and I have to finish my tax return. So if you haven’t received an email reply from me recently, then you know why. My apologies all the same. Talking of writing course notes, I’m teaching complex analysis again this semester. This, of course, involves teaching about infinite processes/procedures. Should I include the proof that pi is equal to 4, as found at Memebase, and pointed out to me by one of my students:...

## Dan Meyer knows what he is talking about!...

posted by Kevin Houston

This week’s scheduled post was delayed because I’m waiting for a photograph. Which is a pity as it was a chance for me to brag! You’ll just have to wait… Instead, just in case you think I had given up posting, I’ll highlight a video I was going to write about in coming weeks. This guy, Dan Meyer, has some really good practical ideas for teaching mathematics. The central one is so simple too! I’ll say more about the video in later...

## Lanchester on higher education...

posted by Kevin Houston

Happy New Year! Back from holidays and back to posting. I would have posted sooner but had a stack of emails to do yesterday. (Many still left to go…). I have been reading John Lanchester’s, Whoops, an account of the financial meltdown of the last few years. It’s a good account and an easy read. If you have been following the story in detail it won’t tell you anything really new but is worth reading nonetheless. I particularly liked something he wrote as an aside in parenthesis: The whole question of what Britain is best at, in global terms, is an interesting one. There are four sectors in which Britain is world-class: finance, arms manufacturing, the creative arts and higher education. Of these, the first receives strong government support, the second lavish investment and strong support, the third is largely left to mind its own business and the fourth has been gradually run down, with three decades of consistent discouragement and underfunding. What would Britain look like today if instead of the arms industry or the City it had been our Russell Group universities which had been the subject of attempts to achieve world supremacy? We can only imagine and weep at the opportunities...