Diary of a subject leader
Issues in the life of an anonymous Subject Leader
We know that mathematics is everywhere – and the summer vacation is no exception! During our break in France we spent a few days with a French colleague at his home in the Burgundy area. I met him back in 1990 at a conference on history in mathematical education, organised by the British Society for the History of Mathematics, and we have corresponded and collaborated ever since.
We spent some time bringing each other up to date with what we were doing, and plotted a couple of new ventures. He teaches a lot of his mathematics through English so was keen to learn some more of the terminology we use. In the past I have accommodated mathematics teachers from France who spend a fortnight with us and go into school to observe lessons and participate in the daily life of a teacher. They always find it interesting to see the faculty meetings in school and the half-termly mathematics teacher meetings, and also the Royal Institution mathematics masterclasses. It is worth finding out what is happening near to you and getting involved – the richness of the activities is just the thing to enthuse young mathematicians.
My French colleague took us to an absolutely fantastic library of old books in the museum at Semur-en-Auxois where we spent some time perusing books from the 16th century onwards (yes – you can browse through them).
There is a very good selection of mathematical books and I was interested to find some references to Galileo’s compass of proportion since I’m working on a little project using it with students.
Another morning saw us interchanging electronic copies of other old texts. There are many opportunities for using bits of these in the classroom, and a search on Google books can often give electronic versions free of charge, including The Diarian Repository, which consists of all the mathematical questions published in The Ladies’ Diary from 1704 to 1770. These vary in difficulty (but all the answers are there!).
While we were in France we paid tribute to Vauban (1633-1707), the French engineer who fortified many French towns in the reign of The Sun King (Louis XIV) by visiting Neuf-Brisach. The symmetry of this World Heritage site is stupendous and the mathematics that can be planned around such sites can give rise to a lot of functional activity.
Plenty of material to keep me busy!