Visit by Keith Devlin

On November 18-19, 2013, Keith Devlin from Stanford University visited Umeå Mathematics Education Research Centre (UMERC). During his visit, he participated in different seminars and worked together with members of UMERC.

Keith Devlin, mathematician, is a co-founder and Executive Director of Stanford University's H-STAR institute and a co-founder of Stanford’s Media X research network. Much of his current research is focused on the use of different media to teach and communicate mathematics to diverse audiences. In this connection, he is a co-founder and President of an educational video games company, InnerTube Games. He has written 32 books and over 80 published research articles. Among his books is Mathematics Education for a New Era: Video Games as a Medium for Learning, AK Peters 2011. He is "the Math Guy" on National Public Radio in the USA.

Program for seminars


Monday, November 18, 13.00 - 14.30

"Mathematical reasoning: Can MOOCs help students to develop good mathematical thinking skills?"

For a phenomenon that is essentially less than two years old, MOOCs have generated a lot of questions, none of which have been answered. What exactly is a MOOC (Massively Open Online Course)? Does that question even have a single answer? Are MOOCs mostly hype and little substance? Is higher education going to change dramatically the way the music and newspaper industries did? What is involved in designing and running a MOOC? Why are leading scholars at major universities putting often huge amounts of time and energy into them? Why are their university administrations supporting those efforts?

For those of us trying to develop university-level mathematics courses that run as MOOCs, there is also a crucial pedagogic issue to address. Advanced mathematics that involves the construction of proofs is not machine gradable. But with MOOC class sizes numbering in the many thousands, the work a typical MOOC student produces will never be seen by the instructor, or indeed any qualified mathematician. So is there any way the student can develop the ability to produce sound mathematical proofs? If not, is there another, achievable, goal that has sufficient merit to be pursued.


Tuesday, November 19, 10.00 - 11.30

"Video games and Mathematics learning: First Person Solvers: Designing Video Games for Mathematics Learning"

The design of a good interface to an activity can have a significant impact on use and learning. The piano provides a more intuitive and direct interface to music than symbolic musical notation, the Hindu-Arabic numerals revolutionized arithmetic (and with it, trade and commerce), and symbolic algebraic notation was so successful that most people today think the interface is algebra, rather than the mathematical processes the notation represents. Devlin has spent the past several years developing casual games that provide representations of mathematics that enable children (and adults) to learn basic mathematics by "playing", the same way we can learn music by learning to play the piano. He recently co-founded a small video games company to turn those ideas into tangible products.


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Homepage of Keith Devlin