Browsing category ranting

Long division considered harmful

Oh, for heaven's sake. The Standards& Testing Agency has just released their new sample materials for Key Stage 2 (upper primary). Among other things in Mr Gove's poisonous legacy is the insistence on everyone using formal methods of arithmetic, whether appropriate or not. The examples given in the test are:

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BBC Sport’s anti-smartness bias

“[James McEvoy] is an unashamed geek - he was reading a book on physics, as you do, to see if it could improve his performance.” - Radio 5 swimming commentator “You need some kind of accountancy degree to work out what each of them needs to do in the final

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Why we lose mathematicians (a hypothesis)

This is something that struck me the other day when someone asked me about the difference between university maths and sixth-form maths: every time a student moves between educational levels, “what maths is” undergoes a dramatic change. This is based on my memories of school and is likely to be

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Book review: Vedic Mathematics

I wanted - I really, really wanted - to like this book. On the surface, it's exactly my cup of tea: a whole book of tricks to make mental arithmetic easy. Sadly, there's so much about it that's dreadful that the nuggets inside it are hardly worth the effort. The

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The Compulsory New Year’s Resolution post

A big hello to 2014! Last year was a fantastic year for me: I spoke at the Edinburgh festival, I ran the Berlin marathon, I had crosswords published in 1 Across... oh, and I became a dad for the first time. Cracking year. 2014 is going to struggle to top

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PISA results: my thoughts

The 2012 PISA results came out yesterday, showing that the UK's place in the world rankings has remained almost unchanged over the last three years. It struck me, listening to the Today programme in a half-asleep stupor (as is my cliched, lefty-academic morning routine) that I didn't really know what

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Escoffier, Joyce and Einstein

In complaining that astrophysics was hard because of all the maths, a student recently told me: "The way it's presented is: 'OK, you get that $A+B=C$? Excellent. Now derive $DQH$, use a matrix to get $Y$, find $M$ by mysterious means. What? Why can't you do that?" Let's start with

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Why I loved the MathsJam conference

Because, well, what's not to love? About 100 mathematicians gathered together to play with maths for a whole weekend. What, in all seriousness, could be better? There's something fantastic about there being, in one room, probably about as much mathematical brainpower as the Manhattan Project, and for all of that

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John Halpern’s TEDx talk on crosswords

This is an odd, out-of-sequence post, but I just saw this and thought it needed sharing. - John Halpern in real life - is one of my heroes. I'd rate him comfortably among the top five crossword compilers in the UK (possibly the world), and not just because he has

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The Mathematical Ninja gets mean

Chair: If 'good' requires pupil performance to exceed the national average, and if all schools must be good, how is this, how is this mathematically possible? Michael Gove: By getting better all the time. Chair: So it is possible, is it? Michael Gove: It is possible to get better all

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