The inclusion of research in education of students on mathematics programs in higher education faces a number of challenges, for example:
- It is difficult for research mathematicians to bring their research into their teaching because undergraduate students will not have developed the necessary knowledge to engage with the subject at that level.
- In theoretical mathematics programs (pure and applied) experience of how mathematics is used in workplace research and development is limited, and students' perceptions of the use of their knowledge is similarly restricted.
- Applications of mathematics to 'real' problems as experienced in industry, commerce and applied research often demand high level knowledge in other fields such as engineering, economics and natural sciences.
A program is being developed in the US to meet these challenges, this is PIC Math: Preparation for Industrial Careers in Mathematical Sciences. The program is led by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and supported by the US National Science Foundation.
The 'PIC Math' program engages undergraduate students in tackling real problems provided by industrial, commercial and research enterprises. PIC Math course directors approach enterprises to see if they have any problems 'lying on the shelf', that is problems that have arisen in the course of the enterprises activities, but which have not been crucial to the enterprise and thus 'shelved'. The problems should be amenable to theoretical (mathematical) solution. Students work in small groups on the tasks. Enterprises are also requested to participate with some mentoring of the student group working on the problem – this could be within the university classroom or within the enterprise. A course tutor, a university professor acts as guide, mentor and consultant within the university. It is not anticipated that the small groups of students that work on these problems will reach a 'solution'; the essence of the task lies in the processes employed to work towards a resolution. Students' work is graded on the basis of their engagement in the processes of problem solving rather than the validity of any solution they may produce.
MatRIC wants to support a pilot study in which the PIC Math program is modelled in Norway. With support from the US PIC Math directorate, MatRIC sent a professor of Pure Mathematics (Yuriy Rogovchenko) to a PIC Math workshop in the US in May 2016. The purpose was to accumulate the knowledge to run a successful pilot of PIC Math in the autumn. Following this information gathering visit it is proposed to invite representatives of enterprises (industrial, financial and research) to a meeting to explain the scheme and request their participation. Further, one of the directors of the PIC Math program (Prof. Michael Dorff) will come to Norway in the autumn and provide a keynote presentation at MatRIC's annual conference.
Anyone interested in being involved in this development, or being informed about the progress of the pilot study should contact MatRIC.