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The BBC has announced it is “to deliver the biggest education offer in its history”, featuring hours of daily content for primary and secondary students across its channels.

For its part, the BBC deserves credit for delivering a public service at a time of desperate need. For many families, television will be the only means of accessing educational content during the coming period. It’s better than nothing — but only marginally.

Television-based lessons, however well produced, still leave no room for interaction, feedback or self-paced learning. That’s what computers are for. They generate the ‘thousands of forms of functions’ that…


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My most cherished correspondence dates back to December 23, 2002: an offer letter from St Anne’s College, Oxford, to pursue a degree in mathematics. The dream subject at the dream university, and the catalyst for my development as mathematician and educator. I sat my exams, earned my grades, gleefully took my place. I didn’t realise it then, but that made me one of the lucky ones.

If history does not repeat itself then surely it rhymes. At around the same time I was preparing for my A Levels and looking ahead to Oxford, the SARS coronavirus emerged. I knew little…


What an EdTech CEO ignores about learning and teaching

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Football simulation, yes. But learning? (source)

Did you hear the one about the EdTech CEO who thinks all learning activities should cater to low attention spans?

It would read as satire, except that Mohit Midha appears deadly serious. The boss of Mangahigh, an online maths platform, claims that video games offer a blueprint for the future of education, citing football simulator FIFA as an example for educators to follow.

Digital maths content is at the heart of my work and FIFA football is at the heart of my play. The article hints at little understanding of either.

(Full disclosure: I work on a product in the…


Mathematical thinking spans multiple worlds

My work keeps me in touch with maths educators from across the world. Recently, I have noticed a renewed emphasis on problem solving in the classroom. It is refreshing to see problem solving embraced as a core tenet of mathematical thinking, rather than simply an enrichment activity that resides at the edges of the curriculum.

One problem still lingers, however: the insistence that problem solving must be situated within real world contexts. Apparently, it is only in the real world that students can find mathematics useful and relatable. …


It is so much more than a formula

Why do we have to learn Pythagoras?

It’s a question that stretches back almost as much as the Greek maestro himself, and one that hip-hop artist and activist Akala recently challenged educators with. For maths education to find relevance and resonance with students, we have to interrogate the stock response of ‘because it’s useful’. Is utility really the goal of mathematical study and, if so, is the current brand of school maths even serving this purpose?

As currently taught, the usefulness of Pythagoras’ Theorem is far from obvious. The procedural diet of the curriculum elevates the Theorem as a…


We’ve just relaxed our human ambition

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Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty

Am I the only one who feels a tad underwhelmed by Google Duplex? My social media feeds are filled with gushing platitudes over the virtual assistant’s handling of a simple haircut appointment. Some are even claiming the Turing Test has been passed. Putting aside the ethical ramifications of abdicating such tasks to the robots (a topic worthy of its own post), I’m left wondering: is this how low we’ve set the bar for human conversation?

Google Duplex may score top marks for authentic tone and delightful mannerisms, but the topic of conversation was hardly riveting. …


Where Paul Erdös got it wrong

I seem to keep encountering the following quote:

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It appears on my Twitter feed every few weeks, is quoted in several maths books and, just this week, I found the words emblazoned on the office wall of a mathematician colleague.

The quote is attributed to Paul Erdös, the twentieth century Hungarian mathematician who was so prolific that mathematicians hence have identified themselves in terms of an Erdös number, a value that reflects their “collaborative distance” to the man himself. …


Why product managers are essential to safeguarding algorithmic bias

Algorithms are not born agnostic. They are designed and implemented via a series of human choices. Conscious or not, we inject bias and even prejudice into the algorithmic products we create.

In EdTech, there is a growing emphasis on efficacy, which holds products accountable to the educational outcomes they claim to improve. We must impose just as much scrutiny on the product design process. Too often, algorithmic products are presented as black boxes, riddled with hidden biases that discriminate against the users they purportedly serve. Unchecked algorithms have a knack for widening inequalities; some even assume racist behaviours.

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Thumbs up or down for automated decision-making? (source)

Transparency has…


How digital can reshape the way we see mathematics

Humility. It’s all I can feel after watching 3Blue1Brown’s latest maths video, in which Grant Sanderson and his team provide the most novel of approaches to solving 2D equations, using colour. It is the second time 3Blue1Brown has blown my mind to pieces in just a few weeks, following their earlier video that solved the Basel problem with light.

While I was familiar with the results/methods in both cases, the representations came as a complete surprise. The 3Blue1Brown videos are far from perfect (they proceed at a cadence that sometimes proves frustrating, lack interaction and, in the most recent example…


An angry husband responds to the pretence of recruitment tests

My wife (call her K) may be the most intelligent person in my life. She has three degrees to her name, including one from Oxford and a PhD. K is (unofficially and perhaps even reluctantly) my career advisor, blog editor and board game partner all at once. Why all the platitudes? To caveat what’s coming up.

K is on the job hunt, seeking out editorial roles in the publishing sector. I can hardly imagine a better fit, so you can imagine my surprise when I returned home one evening to learn that a particular job application had deeply unsettled her…

Junaid Mubeen

Mathematics. Education. Innovation. Views my own.

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