Posted by: Administrator | 08/11/2010

Alexandre Borovik: Opinions sought

I stand for election for the third (and final) term as a Member-at-Large mostly because I personally feel, and am very concerned, that in policy discussions on mathematics education, the voice of unversity mathematicians is not heard.

I had a chance to compare the working of the Programme Committee, on which I previously served, and Education Committee, on which I am serving now; in my opinion, Education Committee needs a serious change. Crucially, I feel that Council and Education Committee need a better understanding of education priorities.

Therefore I invite all LMS members to join  a discussion of education policy on this blog; all posts here are open for comment.

I suggest  ACME’s recent proposal (see http://www.acme-uk.org/downloaddoc.asp?id=228) to extend mathematics provision at schools to all 16-19 old students as a starting point for our discussion. This is a divisive issue: Chris Budd, judging by his statement in this blog, supports this idea, while Tony Gardiner and I assess it as a well-intended but naive and uncosted dream that in the current economic climate will lead to re-distribution of scarce resources away from Mathematics A-levels, thus damaging university level mathematics education.

But what should be the LMS’ response? In my opinion, the current procedures for formulation LMS’ policy are unsatisfactory. I believe that the role of the LMS as a membership charity and its Council should be, first of all,

  • listen to the LMS membership;
  • formulate consensus points of its members’ collective expert opinion on those aspect of education policy that affect university level mathematical education;
  • as a minimal requirement, avoid supporting positions not shared by the majority of LMS members.

As a membership charity which has advancement of mathematics as a charitable objective, we need to focus on areas and aspects of education policy where other players in the field have no expertise or motivation for carrying out a detailed and deep analysis. Of course, this includes, first of all,

  • University level mathematical education, including service teaching of mathematics;
  • PhD training in mathematics;
  • Training and professional development of university lecturers in mathematics.

But as major stakeholders in school level mathematics education, we should also look at

  • content of school mathematics, its level and quality;
  • mathematical skills actually acquired by university entrants during their school study;
  • format of school examinations and a value system instilled in students by the assessment system.

Your opinion? Please contribute your thoughts.

Alexandre Borovik


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