Coryoth writes: The widely held belief that there is disparity in the innate mathematical abilities of men and women has been steadily whittled down in recent years. The gender gap in basic mathematics skills closed some time ago, and recently the gap in high school mathematics has closed up as well, with as many girls as boys now taking high school calculus. As discussed in Newsweek, a new study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences begins to lay to rest the remaining argument that it is at the highest levels of mathematics that the innate differences show. Certainly men dominate current academia, with 70% of mathematics Ph.D.s going to men; however that figure is down from 95% in the 1950s. Indeed, while there remain gaps in achievement between the genders, the study shows that not only are these gaps closing, but the size of the gap varies over differing cultures and correlates with the general degree of gender inequality in the culture (as defined by WEF measures). In all this amounts to strong evidence that the differences in outcomes in mathematics between the genders is driven by sociocultural factors rather than innate differences in ability.
Coryoth writes: "The UK will be offering a bounty of up to £8000 for elementary school teachers willing to complete a Masters degree in mathematics. The cash rewards are part of a major new program to try and reform mathematics education in the UK, including the aim of having at least one specialist mathematics teacher in every elementary school in the country. The program wants to change the poor attitudes toward mathematics by providing informed mathematics instruction as early as possible, and by getting parents more involved."
Coryoth writes: "The UK government is planning to pay primary school teachers to get a Masters degree in mathematics. Teachers will be paid £1000 per year to attend week long university summer courses, with the goal of earning credits toward a Masters degree (which comes with a lump sum payment of £2500). This is part of a general overhaul of mathematics education in the UK based on a recent government report. The goal is to have at least one qualified specialist mathematics teacher in every primary school in the UK. Will this have a significant impact on how well UK students perform in mathematics, or is it a waste of money?"
Coryoth writes: "BBC news is reporting that, following the reccomendations of a recent report, the UK government will be seeking 13,000 specialist math teachers; one for every primary school in the country. The aim is to change the culture of disinterest and distaste for mathematics that pervades many primary schools — when children are first learning about and developing attitudes toward the subject. Teachers will be paid to attend university summer courses in mathematics, with the goal of working towards a master's degree. The plan also includes efforts to get parents more involved, including joint mathematics lessons for parents and children. A similar approach starting in 1996 worked well for Finland. Could we see such a program spreading the the US, Australia and Canada?"
Coryoth writes: "After a Government review of mathematics education in the UK, it has been decided that every primary school will have a specialist mathematics teacher within five years. Specialist mathematics teachers for primary schools will be paid more and will be expected to work towards masters degrees during their career. The goal is to interject a higher degree of math expertise and awareness much earlier in children's education. A similar approach was taken as part of Finland's LUMA programme in 1996, which has since yielded positive results. If the UK programme is successful, can we expect other countries to adopt this approach?"
Coryoth writes: "The BBC is reporting on a recent study in the UK that found that the difficulty of high school level math exams has declined. The study looked at mathematics from 1951 through to the present and found that, after remaining roughly constant through the 1970s and 1980s, the difficulty of high school math exams dropped precipitously starting in the early 1990s. A comparison of exams is provided in the appendix of the study. Are other countries, such as the US, noticing a similar decline in mthematics standards?"
Coryoth writes: "Neal Koblitz, the creator of Elliptic Curve Cryptography, has an interesting article on the history of sophisticated mathematics in cryptography. Math has always played a key role in cryptography, but in the last few decades far more sophisticated pure mathematics has become increasingly vital to cryptography. This, in turn, has brought about an uneasy relationship between pure mathematicians and cryptographers. The result has been fruitful, but has also had a few unpleasant side effects; the article spends some time discussing and dissecting, and debunking the claims of "provably secure" cryptosystems."
Coryoth writes: "From the September Notices of the AMS, The Uneasy Relationship Between Mathematics and Cryptography (PDF) by Neal Koblitz provides fascinating reading on the tension between pure mathematics and cryptography. While mathematics has always played some role in cryptography, since the 1970s far more sophisticated mathematics has played increasingly large role in cryptography research. The last couple of decades has seen a uneasy relationship develop between advanced mathematics and cryptography. Koblitz discusses this, along with his development of elliptic curve cryptography during that time. He also talks about some of the less welcome side effects, such as pure mathematicians contorting their research proposals to be "applicable" to "hot" fields of cryptography, and the attempt by cryptographers to co-opt the reliability of mathematical proof to give (rather weak, and often false) claims of "provably secure" cryptosystems."
Coryoth writes: "The BBC is reporting that Lenovo is following Dell in offering pre-installed linux for its hardware. Lenovo will be offering Thnikpads with Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop pre-installed. In contrast to Dell's largely home and general consumer focus for their linux foray, Lenovo is clearly targetting business users with the laptops models offered. As the BBC article points out, while desktop linux is largely the domain of "technology specialists" the moves by major hardware manufacturers such as Dell and Lenovo point toward a growing wider acceptance. Certainly dektop linux is increasingly gaining recognition amongst the broader computer using community."
Coryoth writes: "A new book is trying to claim that computer science is better off without maths. The author claims that early computing pioneers such as Von Neumann and Alan Turing imposed their pure mathematics background on the field, and that this has hobbled computer science ever since. He rejects the idea of algorithms as a good way to think about software. Can you really do computer science well without mathematics? And would you want to?"
Coryoth writes: "The first major version release since EiffelStudio went GPL in 2006, EiffelStudio 6.0, the Eiffel IDE, libraries and compiler suite, is now available for download with versions for Windows, MacOS X, and Linux. As the first major open source release, it cleans up some of the quirks such as "pick and drop", and modernizing the look and feel of the IDE. The result is a comprehensive development environment, with tools to cover the entire development process, from architectural design through to debugging and profiling. It also includes an updated version of the easy to use Vision2 cross platform GUI development libraries."
Coryoth writes: "The BBC is reporting that students in the UK are being encouraged to drop math at the senior levels. It seems that schools are seeking to boost their standing on league tables by encouraging students not to take "hard" subjects like mathematics, in favour of easier subjects in which they are assured good grades. The result is Universities being forced to provide remedial math classes for science students who haven't done math for two years. The BBC provides a comparison between Chinese and UK university entrance tests — a comparison that makes the UK look woefully behind. Is the UK slipping behind in science education?"
Coryoth writes: "The BBC is reporting on accusations that UK students are being encouraged to drop mathematics and other "hard" courses so that schools can look better on league tables. Instead students are encouraged to take what are percieved to be easier courses in which they can earn better grades, and hence raise the school's standings. In response UK Universities are having to provide remedial math courses for the incoming science students who have not taken upper level math courses at high school."