Monday 25 May 2015

John Nash 1928 - 2015

English: John Forbes Nash, American mathematic...
English: John Forbes Nash, American mathematician and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics 1994, at a symposium of game theory at the university of Cologne, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The American mathematician John Nash has died in a car crash with his wife, police have said. Nash is most famous for winning a Nobel prize in 1994 and for being played by Russell Crowe in the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind.

John Nash was 86. He and his 82-year-old wife Alicia were killed when their taxi crashed in New Jersey. Police said they were thrown from their vehicle and media reports suggested the couple may not have been wearing seatbelts.

Nash is renowned for his work in game theory, the mathematical study of decision-making, which won him the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994.

Nash married Alicia Larde in 1957. Alicia committed her husband for psychiatric care several times after the onset of severe schizophrenia. The couple divorced in 1962, but they remained close, and with Nash's condition improving by the 1980s, they remarried in 2001. Alicia Nash helped care for her husband, and the two later became prominent mental health advocates.

John Nash's work in the field of game theory, and his struggles with schizophrenia, were the focus of the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind.

Nash Equilibrium, named after the mathematician's work in game theory, has become a concept used in a wide variety of disciplines including chiefly economic analysis, but also computing, evolutionary biology and artificial intelligence. This is the basis of the work that led to the Nobel prize.

Monday 4 May 2015

Should Google be allowed in public exams?

Mark Dawe of OCR
believes it is "inevitable"
that search engines
will be allowed in exams.
The head of exam board OCR sparked a controversy this week when he said it was "inevitable" that search engines, such as google, will be allowed in public exams, such as GCSEs and A-Levels.

Mark Dawe told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that allowing internet use in exam rooms would reflect the way pupils learned and how they would work in future.

He said that students would still need a basis of knowledge and that they would have limited time to conduct searches.

Regarding when these changes might be introduced, Mr Dawe said: "It's very unlikely to happen in the next few weeks or next few months, but it's certainly inevitable, I would suggest."

If you are a pupil reading this, you might be thinking that such a move would make your exams - and your revision programme - a lot easier. But would it? Clearly the exams themselves would adjust to the changes. There would be fewer questions where the answers were easily "googled". The questions would become more about how to apply the knowledge you have, rather than about how much you remember. A part of the skill set required for these new examination would be on your ability to find the relevant material on the web, how to collate this information in a sensible way and into a usable form, being able to discern between good reliable information and nonsense (of which, as you know, there is a lot on the web).

In A-Level maths, for example, it is possible to find the solution to any integral on the web. So the questions may become more about applications of integration: real world problems. Questions may become more wordy in mathematics. Problem solving skills will be required, since the candidate will need to know what form of integration is required, or even whether a question requires integration or differentiation, rather than the exam paper presenting an integral and asking the candidate for the solution. So examination writers would also have to take on an entirely new set of skills.

The Campaign for Real Education condemned the idea as "dumbing down". Their spokesman Chris McGovern said: "We have a crisis in standards in this country." He added: "You can have an exam in how to use Google - that's not the same thing as having a history exam or a geography exam.

It is important to note that when calculators were first introduced in public exams in the 1970s there was a similar furore from some parties.

What do you think? Should Google be allowed in public exams?