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FE Magazine - Issue 17: The mathematics I do

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 16 November 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 02 December 2010 by ncetm_administrator


FE Magazine - Issue 17FE Magazine - Issue 14

The mathematics I do – David Martin

I am David Martin, Executive and Honorary Secretary of the Joint Mathematical Council of the UK (JMC), and Past Chair of the National Association for Numeracy and Mathematics in Colleges (NANAMIC).

The mathematics I use at work
The JMC has 13 participating societies and a number of ‘observer’ organisations all involved in different aspects of mathematics and mathematics education; my knowledge of mathematics helps in understanding their work.

The mathematics I’ve used in the last week...
I returned last night from a holiday in Cambridge where I had the pleasure of looking at Isaac Newton’s annotated copy of his Principia in the Wren Library at Trinity College. I have an interest in how the history of mathematics can be used to add an extra dimension to the teaching of mathematics. Materials are being developed for the National Centre. Meanwhile see the NCETM History of Mathematics community.

Mathematics which has amazed and/or surprised me...
In many areas we use mathematics to confirm our intuition. I’m sometimes amazed by results which run counter to intuition. For a good example of this, see the Monty Hall problem.

The part of mathematics I like best...
I am excited by the way that mathematical tools can be used to solve, and solutions generalised to cover, a wide range of problems.

The part of mathematics I like least... 
I am saddened when methods are sometimes used without understanding underlying principles. For example when, in adding two fractions, students are not taught a method that can develop understanding and are taught simply to multiply parts of a fraction.

A maths teacher I remember...
Sadly, sometimes our experiences are not good. The life of my mathematics teacher for the second year of advanced level clearly was not a happy time. In the end just two of our class passed A-level mathematics.

And another teacher I remember...
Mr Ken Stinson who kindly stayed behind after school to teach a few of us chemistry beyond CSE to be able to take O-level. This initiated a long-term interest in chemistry, leading me much later to take up post-doctoral research in Theoretical Chemistry utilising computing, mathematics and chemistry after completing a Doctorate in Mathematics.

Other people/events that have influenced my attitude to mathematics include...
I have been delighted to belong to a wide range of mathematics organisations including the Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM), Mathematical Association (MA) and NANAMIC. Attending their conferences has been a great source of inspiration; this Easter it was good to attend the joint British Congress of Mathematics Education (BCME) conference.

When faced with a challenge in mathematics be prepared to wrestle with it. While at University studying mathematics I found the transition from school mathematics to university mathematics so great a challenge I applied to change to physics. This was not possible and I settled down and received a prize for my first year achievements. During A-levels I had thought of giving up applied mathematics as I had found getting to grips with the concept of vectors so difficult.

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