### Future job? Don’t bank on it!

Squeezed by low interest rates, shrinking trading revenue, and nimbler technology-based competitors, banks are preparing for the day that machines made by men and women take over more of what used to be the sole province of humans: knowledge work.

The human brain is a wondrous machine, but it isn’t changing. The pace of technological advancement is accelerating, and artificial intelligence (AI) may one day make many forms of work extinct.

Both Bank of America and Morgan Stanley, which together employ more than 32,000 human financial advisers, are developing automated robo-advisers. More than 40 global banks have joined forces with startup R3 to develop standards to use blockchain – software that allows assets to be managed and recorded through a distributed ledger, to overhaul how assets are tracked and transferred.

The universal theme of banking’s tech strategy is to make sure that, internally and in dealing with clients, ones and zeros flow seamlessly without messy human interference.

Machine learning, where the decision-making power of algorithms improves as more data are raked in, can replace people in some instances, say finance executives including Daniel Pinto, head of JPMorgan’s investment and corporate bank. Algorithms already tackle tasks such as vetting banking clients, pricing assets, and hedging some orders without human intervention. “*As we make those processes more and more efficient, you will need less people to do what we do today*,” Pinto says. Read more here

###### “IS IT TIME TO RETHINK YOUR CAREER?

* Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Chinese Internet giant Baidu, on how AI will impact what we do for a living*

Truck driving is one of the most common occupations in America today: Millions of men and women make their living moving freight from coast to coast. Very soon, however, all those jobs could disappear. Autonomous vehicles will cover those same routes in a faster, safer and more efficient manner. What company, faced with that choice, would choose expensive, error-prone human drivers?

There’s a historical precedent for this kind of labor upheaval. Before the Industrial Revolution, 90% of Americans worked on farms.”

Read more on the future of Artificial Intelligence here

### New Algorithm to predict Tsunamis

Scientists at the Australian National University have a plan to improve tsunami warning systems around the globe: they’ve built an algorithm.

Using data from monitors in the ocean and modeling what a tsunami looked like when it was birthed, the team of researchers can better predict how big it is, where it’s going, and who’s at risk. This is a big step beyond existing tsunami warning systems, because it uses the actual data to generate predictions, rather than scenarios for tsunami risk that scientists have previously calculated, says Jan Dettmer, a seismologist at the university. (read the full article here).

### The leaning power of PISA

When I was at university one of our senior lecturers was a widely recognized Coastal Geomorphologist. In other words, he was an expert on coastal landforms. I don’t remember anything he taught but I do remember vividly a story he told – which in itself is food for thought for how we teach Mathematics? The lecturer recounted how he attended a lecturer on rising sea levels. The data collected from a local wharf, said the presenter, showed that the sea level was rising at quite rapid rates. My lecturer, being the thoughtful academic he was, asked the question, “Could the data show that the wharf is sinking?!”

Every three years, international data is released on how well students are scoring in a few key subjects, including Mathematics and Science. The graph below indicates a big drop in these standards for 15 year old students in Australia. Now, of course, the data could also show that scores for other countries have gone up and that, in fact, there is no actual decline in the standards for our Australian students!

An article on the TES website ask, “What if there are “serious problems” with the Pisa data? What if the statistical techniques used to compile it are “utterly wrong” and based on a “profound conceptual error”? Suppose the whole idea of being able to accurately rank such diverse education systems is “meaningless”, “madness”? What if you learned that Pisa’s comparisons are not based on a common test, but on different students answering different questions? And what if switching these questions around leads to huge variations in the all- important Pisa rankings, with the UK finishing anywhere between 14th and 30th and Denmark between fifth and 37th? What if these rankings – that so many reputations and billions of pounds depend on, that have so much impact on students and teachers around the world – are in fact “useless”?”

Yes, this is a clear case of the seriously Leaning Power of Pisa!

### Math Equations Delay Flight

An Italian maths professor was recently escorted off an American Airlines flight after a fellow passenger feared his mysterious scribbling on a notepad was evidence that he was a terrorist. In fact Guido Menzio was working on an equation connected with a presentation on price-setting he was due to present. He was flying from Philadelphia to Syracuse to give a talk at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. He was solving a differential equation, but said he was told the woman thought he might be a terrorist because of what he was writing. But the sight of a slightly scruffy, curly-haired man scrawling odd symbols on a notepad was enough to alarm the woman who was sitting next to him. Mr Menzio, a highly respected academic who has also had spells at Princeton and Stanford universities, succeeded in convincing the authorities that his doodles were an equation. (source: Daily Telegraph)

### How to fix decline in Math Scores

Recent data released in New Zealand paints an alarming picture of decline in Mathematics scores for Primary School leavers. These students then enter High School without the math skills to succeed. Here are some of the results:

“Maths scores have been declining since 2002, according to OECD data. National Standards figures show a slight climb in the past three years, but say one in four are behind in the subject by the time they leave primary school at Year 8. A national monitoring study from 2013 had even lower results, with just 41 per cent of students at the expected level when they leave primary, despite the majority achieving well just four years earlier. The drop-off after Year 4 – when students are aged 9 to 10 – is a trend across all subjects, but in mathematics it is particularly significant…

Professor John O’Neill, the director of Massey University’s Institute of Education, called the problem a “chicken and egg” scenario. He said because many students dropped maths – and science – part way through high school, teaching students often lacked subject knowledge in those areas.

“In the past, you could fill students’ gaps in learning at teachers’ college. But whereas 10 years ago students would get several hundred hours in a learning area, now they might only get 50. It’s not enough,” he said. Teachers then lacked confidence, their students got a raw deal, ended up not liking maths, and the cycle began again.

Some educators believed the answer was shifting teaching to masters level to raise entry levels, but even then graduates could come through with limited maths and science ability, Mr O’Neill said.

“Part of the problem is with NCEA, in that it allows too much choice. It’s a very good system but it allows students to drop out of science and maths too early.”

He said the Government needed to be “courageous enough” to recognise it would take the country 20 years, a sophisticated policy response and a long-term funding injection to break the cycle.

The Ministry of Education has already added a suite of maths acceleration programmes and professional development to support underachievement in maths, at the cost of $20 million per year.One is a 15-week intervention for struggling students, the other a programme that supports teachers to undergo extra training to become Mathematics Support Teachers over two years, during which time they work with small groups of high-needs pupils. They eventually help other teachers in their classrooms too.” Read the full article here

Editor’s note: My personal view is that, like any student interest, Mathematics needs to be fostered through a variety of different strategies including coaching, challenge and celebration. Parents also play a crucial part in devoting “Math Time” and sharing the excitement of working with numbers, patterns, shapes and puzzles. Whilst it is easy to blame teachers for the decline in mathematical ability, there is some very capable and courageous teaching going on – teaching in Mathematics that inspires and delights numerical discovery among younger students. Some ideas can be found here:

### We can’t go back in time, can we?

Hey, with Daylight Saving coming into effect, we lost an hour last night, but where did it go? I was taught that, in order to go back in time, you would need to travel faster than the speed of light (thanks Einstein). But, the physicists tell us, this is impossible, so we can’t have lost any time at all? No, I think this “daylight saving” is a myth. Check out this time article and see if you can figure it out:

### Academy ups the Math prerequesite in Oz universities

All year 12 students should be made to study intermediate mathematics if they want to enrol in a science, engineering or commerce degree at university, according to a national report by the Australian Academy of Science (AAS). “This is an absolutely critical issue. We’ve hit a pretty low point,” said the director of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute Professor Geoff Prince, who helped develop the report.

A study of almost 50,000 maths students in the 2013 HSC (the NSW Curriculum Assessment), published in the Australian Journal of Education, revealed a scaling advantage for those who took the general mathematics course.

But the shift by universities to list assumed knowledge rather than strict prerequisites for degree courses had caused fewer high school students to take harder maths courses and resulted in higher drop-out rates, found research by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute.

“If it happened tomorrow it would cause a real shock to the education system because many schools don’t have the resources to be able to teach these [intermediate maths] subjects.

“We need to give schools the time to adapt, and they may need some support to do so,” Professor Prince said.

Among its 12 recommendations, the report also pushes for increasing professional development for out-of-field maths teachers.

“The data we have is pretty emphatic: there is a very measurable difference in academic success … between students who have two-unit Mathematics [in Year 12] and those who don’t,” said University of Sydney deputy vice-chancellor Tyrone Carlin.

Education minister Simon Birmingham, who is due to present the report at Parliament House, said it “laid clear path” for this generation of students and into the future.

“Around 75 per cent of Australia’s fastest growing industries require science, technology, engineering and maths skills which is why we have committed $112 million for programs to encourage more students to get engaged in those areas,” Senator Birmingham said.

Read the full article here