December Newsletter 2016

Ho Ho Ho! 12 Days of Christmas puzzles, TIMSS & PISA what do they mean? News and coming events. Maths Beyond the Textbook

Merry Christmas to all the teachers, students and maths enthusiasts out there! We are very sure that all schools are busy this month preparing for Christmas plays, Christmas exams and the like! And, besides everybody busy with shopping, meeting up and all the preparations. However we still have some fun activities for you.
We'll be back in touch in January and in the meantime a very Happy Christmas and Happy and Peaceful New Year

To add some festive maths cheer we have created the 12 days of Christmas maths puzzles. The difficulty level of the puzzles vary so you may need to adapt some to suit your students. Why not run a whole school festive puzzle where one is given each day? 
The puzzles can be downloaded from the Maths Week website

Also in this newsletter:
Irish Mathematics Calendar 2017
TIMSS report: 9 out of 49 - what does this really mean?
PISA 2015 Results
Dates for your diary
Douglas Buchanan's Beyond the Textbook

Irish Mathematics calendar

The first Irish Mathematics Calendar was launched last year for 2016 and the new improved 2017 model is now with the printers. the calendar contains short bios of 72 maths people from all corners of the island and important dates to know. Last year we offered 100 calendars to the first 100 readers to email us. We were quickly over -subscribed.  So, we are doing it again - email us with your name and postal address if you want a FREE Calendar.

Maths Ireland Blog
Des MacHale winner of the Inaugural Maths week Ireland Award for Raising Public Awareness of Maths is featured in the November MathsIreland Blog. Des is emeritus professor of Maths at UCC and is well known for his work on George Boole, however he is also the author of many humorous books and an expert on "The Quiet Man"
read it here or paste into your browser

Keep an eye out for December's blog which will come out shortly.

TIMSS  6 or 9 out of 49  What does this really mean?

On the 29th of November, the Educational Research Centre produced a report looking at the Republic of Ireland's performance in TIMSS (Trends in Maths and Science Study). The report shows that the Republic's students have recorded a major improvement in maths in recent years and we are now ranking ahead of some high achieving countries such as Finland. 
The main points to take from the report are:
1. Ireland's performance at fourth class:
  • Northern Ireland have held their sixth place from 2011.
  • Republic of Ireland's pupils placed ninth out of 49 countries and - this is a major improvement from 17th place in 2011.
  • Singapore, Hong Kong and Republic of Korea were the top three performing countries.
  • There were no statistically significant differences between male and female learners in maths.
2. Ireland's performance at second year:
  • Republic of Ireland's pupils placed ninth out of 39 countries. Northern Ireland did not participate in TIMSS at this level.
  • Singapore, Chinese Taipei and Republic of Korea were the top three performing countries.
  • There were no statistically significant differences between male and female learners in maths.
The full report on Ireland's performance can be viewed here. ]

PISA 2015 Results

The results for PISA 2015 were released Tuesday 6th December 2016. The PISA assessment of mathematics focuses on measuring students' capacity to formulate, use and interpret mathematics in a variety of contexts. 15 year old's complete the PISA assessment. To succeed on the PISA test, students must be able to reason mathematically and use mathematical concepts, procedures, facts and tools to describe, explain and predict phenomena. There were 72 participating countries and economies for PISA 2015.
The full report of all countries can be viewed here.

Summary of the results:
- Four countries/economies in Asia outperform all other countries/economies in maths. These are: Singapore, Hong Kong (China), Macao (China) and Chinese Taipei. Japan (5th place) is the strongest performer among OECD countries. 
- Albania, Columbia, Montenegro, Peru, Qatar and Russia improved their students mean performance between 2012 and 2015, contributing to an overall positive trend since these countries began participating in PISA.
- On average across OECD countries, boys score 8 points higher than girls in maths. Boys' advantage in maths is most apparent among the best performing students: the 10% highest achieving boys score 16 points higher than the 10% highest achieving girls.

So how did Ireland do?
- Republic of Ireland scored better than the OECD average in maths, science and reading.
- In maths, Republic of Ireland had a mean score of 504 points. Singapore in 1st place scored 564 points and the average score was 490.
- 167 schools in the republic took part involving 5741 pupils.
-  Republic of Ireland were 18th overall and 9th in Europe.
- The UK was in 27th spot with mean score of 492. Mean score in Northern Ireland was 493.
- There is concern expressed that performance of higher achieving students has declined in Northern Ireland
- UK was 22nd in Reading and 15th in science.  
- Republic of Ireland was 5th in reading and 19th in science.

These are just some points from 2015 test. The OECD PISA also examines excellence, equity, attitudes and policy in education. They are very informative and unfortunately the media and others look upon it in similar way to school league tables and concentrate on rankings.

Saturday, December 10 2016 
The Irish Meteorological Society will host a morning seminar on Aviation and Weather in the National Botanic Gardens on Saturday, December 10th. The meeting starts at 10 am and finishes at 1:30 pm. Advance registration is necessary. A nominal fee of €10 applies and you can book on the IMS web site

20th December 2016
The Irish Mathematical Society (IMS) AGM and Lecture will take place at 3.30  UCD in the Moore Auditorium, Science East. All members are cordially invited. Michael Mackey IMS president reminds us that the date is auspicious as it is the 40th anniversary of the first meeting of the society. (see if you recognise the first officers here)
At 6pm following the AGM at the same venue there will be an lecture " A Painless Overview of the Riemann Hypothesis  (Proof omitted)" by Peter Lynch emeritus Professor of Meteorology at UCD and columnist at the Irish Times  with his popular "That's Maths" column.

11 - 14 January 2017

BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition takes place in RDS Dublin with over 1,000 secondary pupils from all over the island competing. 50 - 60,000 visitors are expected to make trip to the venue in Ballsbridge. The Maths Week Ireland team will be there again on the Calmast Waterford stand . Drop by and say hello!

20th January  - 10th February 2017
Institute of Physics Tyndall Lecture series will take place at venues across the island. The Tyndall Lecture series is for upper secondary school pupils This year Eoin Gill and Sheila Donegan of Maths Week will be giving their show "The Life and Legacy of Robert Boyle". While it is physics and we know that many physics teachers read this newsletter. See here for details.  

27 January 2017
CSO Apps4Gaps competition
John Hooper Medal for Statistics
Deadline for registration. Click here for more details.

28 January 2017 
Galway Astronomy FestivalClick here for more details

28 - 31 January
Recreational Mathematics Colloquium V - G4G 2017, Lisbon
A Show and Tell of bright pearls of Mathematics, with varied levels of sophistication, entertaining many audiences. Its main goal is to foster mathematical appreciation. Click here for more details

January 2017
LearnStorm Challenge 2017 (formerly Mathletes) – registration begins in January 

1 -5 February 2017
Congress of European Research in Mathematics Education
The Tenth Congress of the European Society for Research in Mathematics Education that will be hosted by the Institute of Education, Dublin City University. It will take place at Croke Park from 1st to 5th February, 2017.
CERME 10 will promote the development of mathematics education through intellectual communication and cooperation in the context of thematic working groups, plenaries, poster sessions and congenial interactions. Registration is now open for CERME 10.

16 - 26 February 2017
Northern Ireland Science Festival
With over 100 events across 25+ venues, the NI Science Festival offers a stimulating and wide range of events focusing on the wonders of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These events present some of the best scientists from NI and beyond to discuss their work, cutting-edge research and what the future might hold. Click here for more details

3 - 4 March 2017
Maths Counts 4th annual national conference for all post primary mathematics teachersClick here for more details.

4 - 10 March
Engineers WeekClick here for more details.

Make sure you keep us updated on your events and activities throughout the week. You can find us on Twitter @mathsweek or Facebook.

Douglas Buchanan
December 2016
My programme of events is increasing all the time even though I say I need to put a cap on the programme. This term has been very exciting with a trip to Nairobi presenting my challenges, 17 challenges in the UK and 9 days participating in the Maths Week festival.
Yesterday I received confirmation that on behalf of Christ’s Hospital I will be hosting my Year 5 Mathematics Challenge at The Guildhall in London in March. What a venue!

A Maths Table in the classroom
This would be ideal to expose material to the pupils which they can use in their spare time and especially during ‘wet breaks’. I never had one but have been thinking it is such an ideal opportunity to promote maths in the classroom.
Jigsaw puzzle – there are many 500 piece puzzles around and having an area for the children to work together does promote the community spirit. Roll up puzzle mats are ideal.
Packs of cards – download instructions for simple maths games and put them into a booklet and persuade the pupils to work through the text and learn how to play the games – click here and here.
Pairs of compasses and paper – this gives the pupils to produce colourful patterns and shapes and in turn learning about symmetry and tessellations – click here and here (you have to register with TES but it is free and you do not receive any spam mail from them).
This is just the start and I have many more ideas to put in future newsletters. Do not let the table ‘go stale’ and change the activities frequently.

Puzzle for the month - The miller's fee
In a Tennessee mountain community the miller retains as his fee one-tenth of the corn the mountaineer farmers deliver for grinding. How much corn must a farmer deliver to get 100 kilograms of corn meal back, provided there is no loss?

Ways to learn the dreaded multiplication tables
The following websites give many ideas to help pupil learn the tables. Past practice forced children learn tables through rote and no understanding.
We Are Teachers – click here.
Teaching Simplicity – click here.

Christmas Maths
Math Salamanders – click here – many activities for Key Stage 1 and early stages of Key Stage 2. Some good co-ordinate work. – click here – Key Stage 2 and 3. Five lateral thinking problems revolving around Santa’s activities.
Rule In The Roost – click here – lovely dice games with a Christmas theme

The miller's fee Solution -
111.11 kilograms
Wishing you a happy and puzzling festive season.

See more on Douglas' website
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