Higher Education Mathematics Education Conference 19th September 2008, Loughbough University
What is HEMEC?
Higher Education Mathematics Education Conference (HEMEC) was a one-day conference organised by PhD research students from sigma, with support from the MSOR Network.
sigma is a Centre for Excellence in mathematics and statistics support, which sponsors PhD students at Birmingham, Coventry and Loughborough universities. The MSOR Network is one of the Subject Centres of the Higher Education Academy, which aims to help institutions, discipline groups and all staff to provide the best possible learning experience for their students
HEMEC took place on September 19th 2008 at Loughborough University and explored the themes of mathematical thinking, technology and socio-cultural influences at the tertiary level of mathematics education. This conference was targeted at both research students and researchers/lecturers, and aimed to be a stepping stone towards building a stronger, more focused community of researchers within HE mathematics education. Presentations took the form of short talks and posters.
- Professor Dave Pratt, Institute of Education
Researching to Design; Designing to Research
Educationalists are fundamentally interventionist by nature. However, might not interventionism militate against an aspiration to understand how students’ think about mathematics? In this talk, I shall discuss a resolution to this apparent paradox, one that has guided my research on the relationship between the design of technological tools and student’s mathematical thinking-in-change. In discussing the notion of design research, I shall draw on examples from my own research, explain how the approach has enabled me to elaborate my research questions, and acknowledge remaining tensions and limitations.
Building relationships within mathematics: exploring undergraduate learning communities
For many mathematics undergraduates, their university study will be the first time that they encounter difficulty in their chosen subject. In addition, they must adjust to a different teaching style and context which some find alienating and most find challenging. How do they cope with these changes in terms of their perceptions of mathematics and their approach to learning? Focusing on qualitative data gathered from three groups of students, I will draw on a socio-cultural framework to explore how they individually and collectively build images of themselves as participants or non-participants in mathematics.
Mathematicians' use of Computer Algebra Systems: an overview
There are diverse beliefs and assumptions about how and how much mathematicians use technology to teach mathematics at the university level. However, as opposed to the school level, where large-scale studies regularly assess the extent of technology use, little is known about the integration of technology in university-level mathematics teaching and learning. In this talk, drawing on my dissertation research, I aim to outline some current practices of mathematicians’ use of Computer Algebra Systems (CAS), their views about the role of CAS in future mathematics teaching and students’ mathematical literacy, and some factors that influence mathematicians to integrate CAS into their own teaching practices. This research is based on interviews and questionnaires of more than a thousand mathematicians in Hungary, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
Experiences of mathematics students with visual impairments in higher education
Mathematics underpins all of science and engineering and forms an important component in social sciences, humanities, business studies and many other areas. Yet mathematics and its notation present unique difficulties in the accessibility of content for students with visual impairments which are often little understood and so can be overlooked.
Accessibility in Maths, Stats and OR: LaTeX and Braille is a project funded by the Maths, Stats and OR (MSOR) Network and operated through Nottingham Trent University. As part of this mini-project, investigations have been made and field research and interviews conducted into the issues surrounding supporting students with visual impairments in MSOR subjects in higher education.
This presentation will outline the main issues faced by students with visual impairments studying MSOR subjects, for example accessing mathematical materials, producing mathematical notation and accessing equipment and software. It will consider techniques for teaching students with visual impairments. In order for participants to gain an appreciation of the issues faced by some students with visual impairments, a demonstration of mathematical notation read by a screenreader will be included.
The presentation will look to highlight key findings of the project and so highlight the key areas where particular consideration is needed to address the needs of students with visual impairments taking MSOR subjects.
The European Virtual Laboratory of Mathematics (EVLM)
The steady year-on-year decrease in the mathematical abilities of new entrants to universities is well known. Although the level of mathematics expected from European school leavers varies enormously between countries, it is still recognised that, in general, standards are falling.
The European Virtual Laboratory of Mathematics (EVLM) is a web-based European project in the Leonardo da Vinci programme. It has been running for 2 years, with the project end date scheduled for October 2008. The project aims have been:
• To promote e-learning in Mathematics, to provide solutions for different target groups and help for teachers and trainers to enhance their skill in using the most advanced educational tools and environments.
• To provide consultancy not only on how to use existing materials, but also on how to develop and author electronic learning materials that might be shared by interested parties through the EVLM Portal.
• To offer a consultancy service in mathematics (either electronically or personally) in order to increase the overall level of mathematical knowledge and to enhance competence in mathematics within the indicated target groups.
EVLM is able to draw on a team of experts based in The Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Slovakia, Spain and the UK, enabling a wide range of subject areas to be supported.
This paper reports on the progress of EVLM in achieving its aims and its plans for the future.
The conference concluded with an expert panel discussion exploring current issues in mathematics education. Members of the panel included: