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May 04, 2012


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Mike Vickers

A very interesting pod.
I love the bit about collaboration, personality, equity, trust – it would seem that this is what is most lacking in the UK – down with the Blair academies!
Not school till 7, but they do have kindergartens – are these not school, do these not educate - they do in Scotland as well as play?
Sorry I don’t take it that the standard way of teaching is Anglo Saxon – it is largely universal - and I suggest it is as much European and probably Germanic.
What do teachers qualify in – individual subjects ie do they still specialise in subjects as in the rest of the world, or do they focus on teaching. The Masters degree – is it a combination of specialism and teaching?
You focus on maths – it would be interesting to research the childhood of some great mathematicians – Newton, Leibniz, Euler, and Poincare. I’m sure this is well documented.
The idea that teachers decide what they want to teach is truly exciting – away from the centralism and in this respect Scotland looks equally as bad as the UK as a whole – Yes – The Curriculum of Excellence.
If Scotland is to survive in the global world then it must be top (sorry this is competition) in knowledge and innovation and hopefully this does come from better education. As I understand it Scotland has a reputation for respecting education above all things.
Pity Russell left before the end – from his writings he does look to be a centralist.
BTW you might cast a look at my latest blog on Localism.

Mike Vickers

I have taken the opportunity to look up my mathematicians in Men of Mathematics by E T Bell, a Scotsman who emigrated to the US And wrote the book in 1937 – published in Pelican Books in 1953 and I have had a copy ever since.
Newton was brought up by his grandmother when his mother married again. He appears to have been very inventive flying kites with lanterns to scare the villagers; however he went to Grantham Grammar School and soon shone, becoming top boy before going off to Cambridge. He avoided supporting his mother on the family farm.
Leibniz’ father was a professor of moral philosophy at Leipzig. His father died while Leibniz was only 6 but left a good library and Leibniz appears to have educated himself and entered Leipzig University at 15
Euler was born in Basle and was the son of a Calvinist pastor. His father wanted Euler to follow him into the church but taught him mathematics. Euler went to Basle University and did study theology and Hebrew but soon switched to mathematics.
Poincare was born into a long line of successful politicians, military men and mathematicians. As a child he was an indefatigable dancer. As all his lessons came easily he spent his childhood on amusements and helping his mother about the house. Mathematics seized him in adolescence.
So far so good, our four mathematicians came from reasonably well off families, had an interested childhood with time for play and their own devices but mainly followed a standard curriculum.
However I forgot in my list to name perhaps the greatest mathematician of all time Carl Friederich Gauss.
Gauss was borne of a poor peasant family in Brunswick Germany. His father was upright, scrupulously honest but uncouth and wanted Gauss to be like he; luckily he died early in Gauss’ life and Gauss was brought up by his mother. He entered school at seven and given a test added up 100 numbers in a few seconds starting at 81297 and each 198 greater than the previous – yes the answer is easy when you know how but Gauss had not been taught arithmetic progression and neither had the other children who laboured for an hour and still got it wrong. Anyway the usually bullying teacher recognised he had a star pupil and gave Gauss an easy time. From there on his genius was recognised over a number of years and eventually the Duke of Brunswick paid for Gauss to be educated Gymnasium in classics and mathematics. s.
You can all see how this fits in with the Finnish Educational system – two players: Newton, Poincare – two well privileged students Leibniz and Euler - and one Gauss, no play little but his mother’s support and a great brain who just happened to be very lucky, his genius could so easily have been lost to the world of mathematics and its progress delayed by at least a couple of decades.

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