Category Archives: Teaching

Smith review of post-16 mathematics: report and letter

The Smith review of post-16 mathematics has now been published, along with a response letter from the Government.


Clearly the issue is being taken seriously, and steps will be taken to encourage more uptake and better provision. Universities will probably have an increased role in supporting post-16 maths through outreach and enrichment. Here are two extracts from the Government’s response letter (written by Nick Gibb).


First, I agree that good quality teaching is vital, and to boost the capacity of schools and colleges to deliver Core Maths and A level mathematics and further mathematics I am pleased to announce a new £16 million Level 3 Maths Support Programme. It will build on the momentum created by the Further Mathematics and Core Maths Support Programmes, and will work with schools and colleges to improve mathematics education by sharing best practice, and delivering knowledge-rich curriculum materials, as well as working to increase participation and attainment in 16-18 mathematics. The programme will work to deliver focused intervention targeted to those who need it most.


Fifthly, I also welcome your recommendations on encouraging universities to widen access by supporting 16-18 mathematics education. Universities are an important influence on students’ post-16 choices. In response to your recommendations, we are working with institutions such as the Royal Society and British Academy to encourage universities and employers to signal the value of level 3 mathematics qualifications for entry to undergraduate courses with a significant quantitative element and for a wide range of job roles.







Open Days, Othello and Wzebra

We are now into Open Day season! Open Days at the University of Nottingham run today and tomorrow, and there are two more in September. (See

I’m using my Surface Pro for my talks again. Mostly it is behaving well, so far though I did have to restart shortly before one of my talks when BlueBeam temporarily refused to run. After a restart everything was fine again. (It is good that the machine restarts quickly, that is, as long as it doesn’t have to install lots of updates!)

As last year, I have made use of Gunnar Andersson’s excellent software WZebra (see to help with my fun morning talk on strategy for the board game Othello at our Open Days.

I do explain some mathematical aspects to Othello endgame strategy, but mostly this is just a fun session for visitors who don’t go to the first of our main talks! #

I usually have an audience of about 10 for Othello, while the main talks often have over 150 (and on particularly busy days it can be 300+).




Wonder what’s happening at the University of Nottingham on Saturday 17th June?

On June 17th the University of Nottingham is running Wonder

Digital pack web banner for Wonder

The School of Mathematical Sciences is contributing: our event this year is called Othello at the Casino. See for a description of our activities. From there I quote:

Othello at the casino

11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Try your luck at the roulette table (no real money involved!), and learn aspects of the strategy for the board game Othello. You can also take part in games and puzzles and develop your problem-solving skills.
Drop in anytime
Zone 2 – Engineering and Science Learning Centre, B01
Suitable for 7+
We will have staff and students there to chat to visitors, and we will have all sorts of things on display, including Rubik’s Cubes, Towers of Hanoi, Gyroscopes (and their variants), and other exhibits, games and puzzles. We will also have a roulette wheel running , and I’ll be giving tips on how to win at Othello.
Our aim is to show that, as well as being incredibly important and interesting in lots of different ways, maths is FUN!
So, while chatting to us, you can develop your problem-solving skills and refresh those parts of the brain that other activities cannot reach!

Surface Pro 4: Episode 13

No problems recently during classes. But the Surface did lose touch with its pen just now when I was looking through today’s annotated slides. I used Hongfei Yang’s suggestion of twisting the back of the pen to deactivate the pen battery and then activate it again. This didn’t work first time (but perhaps I didn’t completely deactivate the battery, or didn’t wait long enough) but worked on the second attempt. Certainly better than restarting the Surface!

I wonder whether moving the pen out of Bluetooth range and then moving it back into range would have a similar effect? I’ll try that next time!


Surface Pro 4: Episode 12

The dock continues to work very well (so far!).

Unfortunately today the Surface lost touch with its pen again. After trying two restarts and opening various control panels related to the pen, I had to give up and use the “spare” tablet I had brought with me.

3 hours later, I woke the Surface up and it found its pen immediately.

Has anyone found a reliable way to help the Surface to find its pen again when it loses touch with it? (The pen battery level is fine.) On other tablets, when they lose touch with their pen, I have found that switching back and forth between laptop and tablet mode helps. Maybe what I should try with the Surface is attaching the keyboard and detaching it again!

Surface Pro 4: Episode 11

Well the dock for my Surface Pro 4 has arrived, and my Windows Surface is now working with external displays again. Though it didn’t work at first: it turns out that my current display adapter was broken too. With a new adapter (mini-display port to VGA) and the dock all is well.

The new adapter does work intermittently with the direct display port on the surface, but the connection is wobbly and unreliable.

One big advantage of using the dock is that the adapter and VGA cable can then rest safely on the desk/lectern. So I can use my Surface on a laptop stand on a box (for extra height and better writing angle) without there being an issue of the weight of the VGA cable pulling on the adapter and indirectly on the mini display port connection.

Has anyone else had similar problems? I know that some people have abandoned writing with the Surface on a slope because of problems with the connector. Perhaps some good will come of my problems if it helps others in my situation!


Surface Pro 4: Episode 10

Although I can’t currently use the Surface Pro in my classes, I can run Camtasia on it. So I have taken the opportunity to record audio narration with digital pointing to go with some of the annotated slides from the Measure Theory I taught in 2011-12 (the slides where the original recordings failed).

See for the full set of materials.

The two new recordings cover slides 35-36 and slide 37.