Category Archives: Links

Maths, active learning and metacognition

An interesting article about a new book which explains how we learn to learn, and how to teach students how to think: “Critical Maths for Innovative Societies: The Role of Metacognitive Pedagogies”.

“College professors often point out that their students never learnt how to learn. Derek Cabrera was surprised to find that even the “cream of the crop of our education system” was not good at dealing with novel problems in unstructured assignments. As PISA shows, across OECD countries, about one in five students is able to solve only straightforward problems – if any – provided that they refer to familiar situations. Too often, we teach students what to think but not how to think.

Yet, there is an engine we can use for that and it is called metacognition, which means “thinking about your thinking”, and regulating it. Metacognitive pedagogies improve academic achievement: content knowledge and understanding, and the ability to handle routine and unfamiliar problems. And they also boost affective outcomes, reducing anxiety and improving motivation. Struggling students greatly benefit from these pedagogies, but not at the expense of higher achievers.

Metacognition is about taking ownership of your learning and maximising it. “It turns you from being a consumer of learning to being a researcher, a co-producer, an explorer and that’s a much more exciting, exhilarating world. You discover how to learn better” Stephen Heppell argues. He also points out that metacognition makes students “do 20% better – you get an extra Friday every week”.”

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Are academics being silenced by their own universities?

Article in the Times Higher Education Supplement by Chris Parr:
Attempts to ‘gag and silence’ academics are commonplace

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

IMAGINARY exhibition

Just discovered something super cool. The IMAGINARY platform ( grew out of an exhibition organised in 2008.
Here is some awesome mathematical eye candy

Quasicrystalline Wickerwork, by Uli Gauenshirt Source:

Quasicrystalline Wickerwork, by Uli Gauenshirt

Why there are so few women in tech…

Why are there so few women in technical professions? Are women bad at programming? Do they keep rejecting programming jobs? Do they fail to fit into the culture of tech companies? Actually, all of these reasons aren’t true.

Here’s a nice long (and depressing) article (don’t forget to read the comments, as well as this discussion thread)…


What do women think? (some quotes from the article on valeeywag)

“They didn’t want us. Too many still don’t. –spence900


“I no longer touch code because I couldn’t deal with the constant dismissing and undermining of even my most basic work by the “brogramming” gulag I worked for. And that started even when I was in school. I was the ONLY female in my university’s mid-level programming courses and even though I worked to hard to always be in the top 95% of the curve, if a pasty white guy with thin-rimmed glasses and a tee-shirt with an “ironic” phrase doubted me, I was wrong.

I spent my life around midWestern dudes and high school jocks, but there is no misogyny like silicon valley nerd misogynywhoa-disillusionment

And more…

“Dude, I have a Masters in CS, programming certifications, experience in mobile dev, and years of experience. I am also a woman, laid off in January. I have yet to find a job. I’m either too “senior” or “not senior enough.” Sight unseen I’m rejected many times.

I am not entry level so I can’t be one of the token hires to show that a company supports women in tech […]

Somehow women in tech may get the mascot entry level coding jobs, maybe, but there ARE some of us with experience that hit a block as soon as we are out of entry level and remain in tech, not switching to project management or marketing.

I’m quite often the finalist in interviews, never being hired. And their teams remain all dudes. I’m told I’m too senior when I apply down the experience chain. I still do it, because I need the regular gig. The truth is, most places where I live won’t hire women beyond entry level in development groups and if you are beyond that with experience managing dev groups even, with a Master’s degree even, forget it. Perhaps someone who does some html work or marketing, but not in the tech group. I’ll hit the nail on the head perhaps sooner or later, but it’s very ironic they like to say they are begging for talent. But they have to have a certain look. And not be over 35.

I was told to get more education, experience, etc, got it and even then, my progress up the chain had at least a 5-7 year lag to any dude with less education and experience. Why did I get a Master’s in CS, because I had to to prove things. Why did I get certifications? Why do I go the extra mile outside of work? Because on the face of it, a dude is given credit for just looking like a dude in tech. Even with these things, I just may be considered on par with a dude without them most of the time.

Not all places are sexist, not all upper leadership is sexist, but the places that aren’t are so few. […]

Fuck the whole tech business for telling Congress they cannot find talent so give them more H1-Bs. There are people like me out there and most of us are just not the ingenue anymore. I have to say, dudes are always surprised when, after forties, mid-forties, unless they are directors or VPs, they are not hot on the market anymore. It happens to dudes too, and often the most Libertarians of them are shocked when at fifty, they are laid off for just being old. It happened to a dude I know recently. That kind of thing they thought only happened to the unqualified or maybe whiny women or something […]

I do think it’s a load of crap when you see support for getting girls in tech, when there are women in tech. It’s the same crap – as long as you are entry level and no competition for jobs, then it’s okay. That is the case everywhere from Google to Etsy to most hip companies. Seriously, Etsy brags on bringing in da womenz to code. At entry level. Where older dudes can schoolz the womenz on being developers, women far away from threatening the dudes who have real power in their tech. Meanwhile, they had and have higher level jobs in tech that they claim they cannot get women to take – they interview and no woman they like will work for Etsy, so they HAVE to fill all with men. At some point, they just gave up (they wrote this to the public) and put effort into only entry level bringing the women in. I guess bringing them in at a higher level would be quite upsetting. Or just one into tech management. MMMM, how’s about hiring just ONE woman as a tech director from the outside or something, Etsy? Meanwhile they get pats on the back for having a caste system, essentially, institutionally put in place.

Ironically, it can be the older “conservative” businesses where it is less sexist and ageist. Ironically I tell you it’s many times the men older than 45 that have given me my best jobs – those chubby old graying dudes, not the biker, 10% body fat dudes. The hipsters, they are actually more sexist as a group. So you can take that as you will. –ReadyReady

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

God and Unemployment

‘When I began my research interviewing unemployed and underemployed Southern Californians in 2011, I did not expect that their religious views would turn out to be so important. Previous studies of unemployed Americans have scarcely commented on their spirituality. But over and over I heard my interviewees say, as an unemployed IT worker put it, “I believe in God. So I do believe that He has a plan for me and I leave it in His hands.”’

…lovely brief anthropological description of Christian spirituality and unemployment in the contemporary USA – Unemployment and Divine Plans, by Claudia Strauss, professor of anthropology at Pitzer College, Los Angeles.


Do you know about Metamath? “It is a tiny language that can express theorems in abstract mathematics, accompanied by proofs that can be verified by a computer program. This site has a collection of web pages generated from those proofs and lets you see mathematics developed in complete detail from first principles, with absolute rigor. Hopefully it will amuse you, amaze you, and possibly enlighten you in its own special way.” Fascinating. You can even LISTEN to proofs!



Escher, Tile Transformations, Mathematics, Art and Games

I want this game!

Also, last week I went to a super cool event in Berlin called “BMS Friday”. BMS is the Berlin Mathematical School, and the “BMS Friday” is a regular lecture on a Friday (not every Friday sadly) in which a mathematician explains his or her research to a mathematical, but not specialist, audience. PhD students at the BMS actually have to attend these lectures. Horrible to be forced to attend that sort of thing, isn’t it 😀

The lecture I heard was by Craig Kaplan of Waterloo University, London, and it was about the mathematics of Escher’s paintings. Here is a 2008 paper with pictures, and a neat classification of the different transformations Escher used. Kaplan edits an interesting Journal of Mathematics and the Arts

Craig Kaplan at the Urania in berlin, giving the BMS Friday talk on 6 June 2014

Craig Kaplan at the Urania in berlin, giving the BMS Friday talk on 6 June 2014


IMG_1051 IMG_1052 IMG_1053

and another website about parquet deformations

Ever since, my walking through Berlin has significantly slowed down, because I’ve been unable to stop staring at tiles and shapes. I’ve even tried cycling on the pavement which wasn’t a good idea



Tagged , , , , ,

Journal: science in culture

Turns out, I’ve missed three interesting conferences on mathematics in culture

Must keep an eye on this in the future!
More events at
AHRC Science in culture theme

Maths at your fingertips (rambly post, spuriously connected to its title)

This will be a short rambly post because I have low-grade fever and am working from home. First, here is some awesome mathematical eye candy on John Baez’s website.

Baez is a mathematical physicist who works on an astounding array of topics within  information geometrynetwork theory, and the Azimuth Project (which is one of my favourite links on the Links page) and is interested in global ecology.

The beauty of research is that you can do it anywhere. Even from home when you’re ill. Unless you are too ill to think, of course.  When I’m too ill to think, I sleep, drink tea or play silly games like 2048 for hours on end. Warning: if you tend to get addicted to simple computer games, don’t click on that link. It could ruin your week and awaken your nintendo thumb (a type of repetitive strain injury with which you will be intimately familiar, if you are a simple-games addict, unlike my doctors back in 1998). But aside from the perils of 2048,  for the stage that I’m at in this project, it really helps to have an internet connection – because I’m looking up various mathematical websites at the moment. But even if I didn’t have a laptop or the internet, I could do mathematics (with the caveat explained in the next paragraph). In fact, I would probably learn more if I didn’t have Internet – because I’d spend no time on blogging and 2048 – and so would you, because you would read a proper book instead of the rough prose of blog posts. The same applies to sociological research – later once I have more “data” to analyse I won’t need the Internet at all, just a laptop and a quiet place (or even just a notebook and a pen). So yeah, research is awesome, provided the topic fascinates you. Otherwise it’s a drag to be on your own and have to do it..and this is where 2048 begins to look more and more appealing.

You may have noticed that I’m having trouble categorising my posts – most are categorised within several categories which kind of defies the purpose. Perhaps I need to learn more about category theory. Perhaps I need to learn more anyway because it sounds fascinating and also like something very linked to philosophy (which is one of my main points of interest in mathematics).  By the way, identifying my own mathematical interests feels embarrassing since I don’t know much mathematics YET, but I have decided not to be put off by my temporary stupidity and instead see things like Kenyan runners who “think you are as good as your greatest day, even if you have not had it yet.“. 

I hope to return to more sensible blog posts soon – I have one in mind about the Q-step initiative and about a fascinating thing that happened in my local Maths department last week (it was visited by artists and I had the most fun days of my fieldwork so far!). Three… two… one… 2048.

%d bloggers like this: