Through working on resources to support Quantitative Reasoning (H866) and Quantitative Problem Solving (H867) (OCR’s two new Level 3 Core Maths qualifications developed in association with MEI) I have become increasingly aware of the potential of short video clips in stimulating mathematical thinking. One of my favourite sources for clips is TED-Talks.
This talk by Hannah Fry, about the mathematics of love, gives a glimpse at some of the mathematical analysis of how people behave and respond to online dating profiles. Web-data and online behaviour is being analysed in ever more inventive ways, many of which feature in the recent book 'Dataclysm: What Our Online Lives Tell Us About Our Offline Selves'. What I like about this book and Hannah’s talk is that they both go beyond the figures and diagrams and try to interpret what the data is actually showing, and how this relates to people.
The same talk also covers an old favourite, how long should you wait to find your optimum partner? Hannah points out some of the obvious flaws in the recommended approach, which raises another interesting point about the limitations of using mathematics. When examining large data sets (and/or using probabilities) mathematicians can sometimes find the optimum strategy, but this often only works in the majority of cases; what about the minority? Another clip "Greedy Grannie Loses £88,000" shows a contestant on a TV show who had the choice of accepting an offer of £88,000 or continuing a game that could result in her winning either £250,000 or 1p. The mathematics of expectation would suggest that over a large number of such events playing out the game would prove the more profitable, but that doesn’t work in this case as the title suggests. Dan Gilbert’s great TED talk "Why we make bad decisions" touches on this and many other interesting data related issues.
The final section of Hannah’s talk, entitled "how to avoid divorce", looks at how mathematics has been used by psychologists to try and predict the key indicators of a relationship in trouble. They claim to be able to do this with 90% accuracy, but what does this mean? She points out that the same mathematics works for countries engaged in an arms race! I have not looked at the maths in detail, but intend to.
There are many excellent sources of video clip, ranging from TV game shows to serious science programmes, that can be used to stimulate mathematical thinking on a range of topics and help to demonstrate that mathematics goes beyond the text book.
Terry Dawson - Curriculum Developer for MEI
Terry worked in the steel industry before completing a BEd (Hons) in Secondary Mathematics in 1991. He has taught in secondary schools for over 21 years, including 13 years as Head of Mathematics, and 2 years as an Assistant Headteacher and Local Authority Consultant. He joined MEI in April 2013 and has worked with the curriculum team to develop the new Core Maths qualification, teaching resources, and related teaching and learning approaches. Terry has developed and led CPD sessions for teachers and subject leaders, and been involved in lesson study sessions.