Front page

About me

Who's who in Scottish maths education

The idea of this page is to provide a rough guide to the organisations with an interest in or power over maths education in Scotland, and to some of the things they do. This is a personal perspective and should not be mistaken for anybody's opinions but my own; the inevitable biases and omissions reflect my lopsided knowledge of the landscape, which comes from being a maths teacher in HE rather than a school teacher or a policy maker. Corrections, additions and clarifications are welcome!

I've separated specifically Scottish organisations or branches from organisations with a UK remit, as the latter tend to be principally concerned with English matters. I've also separated those organisations that exist directly or indirectly through government policy and funding from those that are independent of government: inevitably this distinction isn't as clean as it sounds. Finally, I've tried to indicate which organisations have an interest mainly in HE and which have an interest mainly in schools — although some, to their credit, straddle the divide.

In a separate section at the end I've provided links to some of the key official and independent reports on maths and maths-related education, both in Scotland and in the UK, over the last decade or so.


Independent organisations

The Edinburgh Mathematical Society (EMS): learned society whose aim is the "promotion and extension of the Mathematical Sciences, pure and applied, particularly in Scotland". Its main interest is in HE, but the Education Committee provides funding to extra-curricular projects in schools; and the meetings include an annual Popular Lecture, usually in January or February.

The Scottish Mathematical Council (SMC): charitable body which aims "to foster and improve mathematical education at all levels, and to encourage the advancement and application of mathematics throughout Scotland". In practice, most of its activities are schools-focussed, but it has members from HE as well. The SMC Journal includes articles on teaching and on education policy, and there is a large annual conference. The SMC also runs the Mathematical Challenge (individual competition) and Enterprising Mathematics (team competition).

STEM-Ed Scotland: a network based at the University of Glasgow, which includes representatives from universities, schools and other bodies with an interest in STEM subjects. It's produced several publications on aspects of education and policy.

The Scottish Maths and Stats Support Network (SMSN): a "forum for those interested in the provision of maths support in tertiary education in Scotland". In practice, it focuses on HE and organises various meetings to share ideas about maths support.

TechFest-SETPoint: a charity which "aims to inspire young people about science, technology, engineering and mathematics". It's based in Aberdeen but has conducted activities elsewhere.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE): learned society with interests across the sciences and the humanities, including maths. It provides policy input episodically, and runs various schools events. In particular, it runs the umbrella Learned Societies' Group on Scottish Science Education, which includes representation from the EMS and SMC.

University departments

University departments or units that are substantially concerned with maths can be found at: Aberdeen (Department of Mathematics / Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics); Dundee (Division of Mathematics); Edinburgh (School of Mathematics); Glasgow (School of Mathematics and Statistics); Glasgow Caledonian (Applicable Mathematics Subject Group within Engineering and the Built Environment); Heriot-Watt (Department of Mathematics; Department of Actuarial Mathematics and Statistics); Stirling (Mathematics and Statistics Group within Mathematics and Computer Science); St Andrews (School of Mathematics and Statistics); Strathclyde (Department of Mathematics and Statistics); University of the West of Scotland (Mathematics and Statistics).

It's also worth noting that the School of Mathematics at Edinburgh has a dedicated outreach team which organises schools masterclasses, roadshows and other public engagement events.

As far as I know, there are currently no dedicated maths units at the University of Abertay, Edinburgh Napier University, Oilthigh na Gàidhealtachd agus nan Eilean, Queen Margaret University or Robert Gordon University.

Joint organisations mostly have a research focus, and include the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS) (mostly a conference and meetings provider); the Maxwell Institute (pooled graduate school for Edinburgh and HW); the Scottish Mathematical Sciences Training Centre (SMSTC) (training for first year PGs).

Governmental and quasi-governmental organisations

Education Scotland: the government body that deals with curriculum development, CPD and inspections at school level. Responsible for Curriculum for Excellence.

The Higher Education Academy Scotland (HEA-S): our own wee branch of the UK-wide CPD syndicate for HE.

The Quality Assurance Agency Scotland (QAA-S): the organisation that exists to "develop and operate quality assurance and enhancement arrangements" for Scottish HE.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC): the body that is responsible for funding teaching and learning provision, research and other activities in HE and FE in Scotland.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA): "Scotland's national accreditation and awarding body", i.e. the government body charged with overseeing exams in our schools and colleges, including within mathematics.

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) provides the definitive guide to Scottish qualifications from school to university level.

UK (but relevant to Scotland)

Independent organisations

The Council for the Mathematical Sciences (CMS): an umbrella group for various learned and professional societies, which aims to provide "an authoritative and objective body that exists to develop, influence and respond to UK policy issues that affect the mathematical sciences in higher education and research, and therefore the UK economy and society in general".

The Joint Mathematical Council (JMC): an umbrella group for various learned and professional societies, which aims to "provide co-ordination between the Constituent Societies and generally to promote the advancement of mathematics and the improvement of the teaching of mathematics... It is concerned with all aspects of mathematics at all levels from primary to higher education." Note that a lot of organisations appear under both the CMS and JMC umbrellas.

The Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME): "an independent committee, based at the Royal Society and operating under its auspices, that aims to influence Government strategy and policies with a view to improving the outcomes of mathematics teaching and learning in England and so secure a mathematically enabled population". Included here because of its high profile even though its remit is technically restricted to England. The Maths Snapshots briefing papers are particularly useful.

The London Mathematical Society (LMS): learned society for mathematics, with an emphasis in practice on academic maths. It runs a Mathematics Promotion Unit, produces policy papers and runs popular lectures, as well as having a standing Education Committee.

The Royal Statistical Society (RSS): learned and professional society for statistics and statisticians. Its main educational activities are providing teaching resources and policy input.

The Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA): learned and professional society which "exists to support the advancement of mathematical knowledge and its applications and to promote and enhance mathematical culture in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, for the public good". In practice its bias is towards applied maths, especially in industry, but it has some educational activities, most notably at the policy level. It also runs a dedicated maths careers website, and provides resources including the Maths in a Box kit (downloadable) and the Large Maths Outreach and Careers Kit (borrowable; trebuchet not included).

The OR Society (ORS): learned and professional society for operational research, which also provides the Learn about OR website with teaching and career resources.

The United Kingdom Mathematics Trust (UKMT): a charity which aims "to advance the education of children and young people in mathematics". Its main activity is organising individual and team competitions at secondary level, culminating in the British Mathematical Olympiad.

The Mathematical Association (MA): a teachers' association, with a schools focus, which "exists to support and enhance Mathematics and the teaching and learning of Mathematics and its applications, and to provide opportunities for collaboration and communication between teachers and students of mathematics". It provides position papers on education policy, publishes some teaching resources and runs CPD for teachers.

The Heads of Department of Mathematical Sciences (HoDoMS): an annual get-together for HoDs in HE. Mostly concerned with policy.

Governmental and quasi-governmental organisations

The Higher Education Academy's STEM Discipline: successor to the Maths, Stats and OR Discipline, itself successor to the much-mourned MSOR Network (MSORN). Despite the centralisation of HEA provision, the archives of the MSORN newsletter, MSOR Connections, are still online and contain some very sensible and useful articles. It's hoped that Connections will soon relaunch as MSOR under the auspices of the University of Greenwich...


I've only attempted here to include a few of the more conspicuous reports of recent years. There are undoubtedly a lot of sensible ideas in less publicised documents, but in any case the overlap between the findings of various reports, and the failure of policy-makers to implement them in an effective manner, are both pretty consistent themes across the years.


HMIE Report on Improving Achievement in Mathematics in Primary and Secondary Schools (2005): official report from HMIE (now part of Education Scotland).

Connecting it up: towards a Route Map for STEM education (2011): "collaborative project" which "aimed to identify and promote a coherent and progressive pedagogical approach across STEM subjects, through the first ten years of education".

The 2012 PISA findings and the implications for Scotland: discussion paper for the SMC, written by Dr Chris Pritchard (no relation) and prompted by the PISA results for Scotland and the accompanying political soul-searching.

Transforming Scotland into a Maths Positive Nation: the final report from the Making Maths Count group, set up by the Scottish Government "to consider how to encourage greater enthusiasm for maths amongst children and young people, their parents and carers and the wider public".

Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy: an annual survey carried out under the auspices of Education Scotland; numeracy is surveyed in alternate years.

England or UK

The Smith Report (2004) (Making Mathematics Count). Report commissioned by the UK Government and chaired by Prof. Adrian Smith.
Remit: "to make recommendations on changes to the curriculum, qualifications and pedagogy for those aged 14 and over in schools, colleges and higher education institutions to enable those students to acquire the mathematical knowledge and skills necessary to meet the requirements of employers and of further and higher education".

The Ofsted report on Evaluating Mathematics Provision for 14 to 19-year-olds (2006). A response to the Smith Report (2004).

The ACME report on The Mathematical Needs of Learners (2011): policy report intended "to move to a situation where a full understanding of 'mathematical needs' is used to inform all the relevant policy decisions in England".

The Vorderman Report (2011) (A world-class mathematics education for all our young people). Report commissioned by the Conservative Party, chaired by Carol Vorderman and written by Roger Porkess.
Remit: to "assess: where mathematics education currently stands in England; where it needs to be in order for us to compete internationally on an economic basis; and what is needed on an individual basis for students to be mathematically literate, and so able to fulfil their potential in future life".

The SCORE report on Mathematics within A-level science 2010 examinations: research report examining the mathematical content of physics, chemistry and biology A-level papers.

The House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee report on Higher Education in STEM Subjects.
Remit: to "investigate, amongst other things, whether the number of STEM students and graduates is sufficient to meet the needs of industry, the research base, and other sectors, and whether they are of a high enough quality". The short answers are no and no; the wide definition of STEM and the poor level of preparation that school leavers have for university maths are fingered as particular problems.