Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | May 15, 2011

IT in university level mathematical education

I updated my cumulative text  IT in university level mathematics teaching and learning: a mathematician’s point of view. It is a much expanded blending of two previous texts published in ALT News Online and in Research in Learning Technology.

Abstract: University mathematicians are often selective in their approaches to the use of IT in teaching. Although mathematicians systematically use specialist software in direct teaching of mathematics, as means of delivery e-learning technologies have so far been less widely used. We (mathematicians) insist that teaching methods should be subject-specific and content-driven, not delivery-driven. We oppose “generic” approaches to teaching, including excessively generalist, content-free, one-size-fits-all promotion of IT. This stance is fully expressed, for example, in the recent Teaching Position Statement from the London Mathematical Society and is supported by a recent report from the National Union of Students:

Not every area of study needed or was compatible with e-learning, and so to assume it would grant blanket advantages was not accurate.

This paper is an attempt to explain, at an informal level, this selectivity and its guiding principles. The paper is addressed to our non-mathematician colleagues and is not intended to be a survey of the existing software and courseware for mathematics teaching — the corpus of existing solutions is enormous and any technical discussion inevitably involves some hardcore mathematics.

Disclaimer. Needless to say, all opinions expressed in the paper are of the author and no-one else. This point needs to be emphasised because the paper contains some material which the author developed for background discussions during preparation of the Position Statement of the London Mathematical Society Use and Misuse of Information and Computer Technology in the Teaching of Mathematics at HE Institutions.  The author worked on the present paper in his private capacity, all views expressed here may or may not represent the position of the London Mathematical Society which does not bear any responsibility for the content of this paper.

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  1. I find that the major—fundamental??–aspect of IT in mathematical teaching is not mentioned at all:
    instant accessibility of mathematical literature (illegally, mostly) and online USENET- and blog-communication. Sadly, when people talk of IT they never talk about this aspect…

    And I feel the opportunities of “Web 2.0″ online communication and access to information are not exploited in teaching. Partly because the only reasonably fast way to access textbooks nowdays is illegal (via gigapedia-like services); and partly because online communication is subtle, e.g.
    on the face of it there eis not much difference between (i) a teacher answering students emails and (ii) a teacher occasionally posting to a student’s newsgroup; in practise there is.

    I am also tempted to add that i think it should be a fundamental aspect of mathematical teaching
    to teach students to be able to find and read books, and to express themselves clearly in written communication.

  2. [...] IT in university level mathematical education ( [...]



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