Martin Orr's Blog

Birmingham summer school

Posted by Martin Orr on Sunday, 13 July 2008 at 21:12

I have just spent a week at the National Mathematics Summer School in Birmingham. Forty-two fourth/fifth form students are invited, the idea being to expose them to a broader range of mathematics than they get in school. Six sixth-formers are also invited; as well as being given some maths of their own, they are expected to look after a group of the younger children. I was at the summer school myself in 2001, and as a senior in 2002, but haven't been since.

This week had a strong geometrical flavour - four of the seniors' five sessions had a geometrical or topological theme, and there was much building of models of solids, either from plastic kits or origami. I gave the seniors a talk on hyperbolic geometry - a change from the Euclidean geometry I usually do at olympiad training camps. I think it went pretty well, and managed not to be too hard for them. I felt like I had not much to do overall at the camp, despite there being surprisingly few permanent staff. Still I enjoyed it, and it reaches a lot more children than the formal Olympiad training scheme.

Since the summer school finished on Friday, I have been staying with my aunt in Hove. I visited the magnificent Brighton Pavilion, the hilly town of Lewes and Seaford, on the sea. Tomorrow I am going on to France.

no comments Tags holiday, imo, nmss, teaching, travel

Exams 2008

Posted by Martin Orr on Saturday, 07 June 2008 at 13:11

I had exams for the past week. For the past few weeks, I was doing not much but revising, although I went to Oundle two weeks ago for an IMO training camp and the final team selection. I did another geometry problem session, which was not as good as my one at Trinity because I had less time to prepare due to exam revision and because I had already used lots of my favourite questions on the first sheet.

I had four exams this week. All are essentially the same, and you are free to choose from 38 questions on all the different courses in the year. Of course noone has taken anywhere near all the courses - I took 12 and revised 9. In the end I did an average of five questions on each exam; I might have liked to do a bit more, but that is more than adequate for a first.

With exams over, I have a couple of weeks until the results with nothing in particular to do.

no comments Tags cambridge, exams, imo, teaching, trinity, tripos

IMO training camp

Posted by Martin Orr on Thursday, 10 April 2008 at 20:03

I have been back in Cambridge for a week now, having come back for the Maths Olympiad training camp which ran last Thursday to Monday. My role was to discuss things with the school-age students when they needed someone with more mathematical experience, and especially to hang around in problem sessions and provide hints. Of course that assumes that I can do the problems myself - sometimes greater mathematical maturity makes that easier, sometimes it has got harder because I am out of practice with Olympiad style problems.

I also took a session on Euclidean geometry, the first time I have attempted to teach a group of people maths. This was quite easy teaching, because mostly I just had to give out a sheet of problems and let people try them. (I have collected up a couple of thousand problems from the IMO training I have gone through over the years, so I had plenty to choose from.) I did start off by spending about 10 minutes revising the basic facts about Euclidean transformations, which would have been familiar to most people, and then showing them one particular nice transformation which noone seemed to know (despite it being quite useful - I even used it in the 2005 IMO). My attempt to prove the properties of this transformation interactively was not too successful, as people proposed a different proof from what I knew, and I was not fast enough to keep up.

I now have two weeks in Cambridge until term starts. This weekend I am going to the London Lindy Exchange.

no comments Tags imo, lindy, teaching

Journey home

Posted by Martin Orr on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 20:34

I am now back in Belfast. I came via Holyhead and Dublin on Monday. The first train was delayed, arriving 7 minutes late in Nuneaton, the time my next train was due to depart. So I was late all the rest of the way, and had to get a later ferry than planned, and to Dublin instead of Dun Laoghaire (not that that makes much difference). I got home eventually.

This article begins by remarking that there are no bins on the underground for security reasons. Some English trains and railway stations have bins, some do not; I don't know if this is for security reasons or not. This seems to render rather pointless the careful education we received at primary school to always use a litter bin. But also the effect - at least at Chester station - is that people leave their cups and packets all over the place. Could a terrorist not leave a bomb in a takeaway cup just as easily as in a bin? OK, this limits the size, but so does the hole in many bins.

Last weekend, before I came home, was spent marking the first round of the British Mathematical Olympiad. About 30 people spent a day and a half marking on the order of 1000 papers. This year for the first time marked scripts are to be sent back to the candidates. I suspect these will often be hard to interpret, and it will take a few years for the markers to properly take this into account when marking, but it should be valuable in giving people a greater idea of how the papers are marked and what they did wrong.

no comments Tags imo, terrorism, train

Elections and mentoring conference

Posted by Martin Orr on Monday, 21 November 2005 at 18:43

This week I voted in two elections: termly elections for all the officers and committees of the Cambridge Union Society, and a by-election for the Vice-President of the Trinity College Students Union. I took my voting responsibilities very seriously and went to the hustings preceding these elections at which all the candidates gave a speech. In the case of the Cambridge Union, this lasted over 2.5 hours and very few people bothered to go except the candidates and current officers.

This weekend I also had a maths mentoring conference. The mentoring scheme is where school pupils who are good at maths are sent a sheet of problems every month and assigned a mentor - either a teacher or an undergraduate - to help them and mark their work. I have been in the advanced level of this scheme for several years, as well as being a mentor for the junior level. Now I have become a mentor for the senior level i.e. for people in sixth form who are not of Olympiad standard. Anyway there has just been a mentors' conference in Trinity, where we had talks and workshops on how to comment on people's work etc. We also had a very nice mentors' dinner on Saturday night.

-- Martin

no comments Tags cambridge, imo

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