Jiva Technology

The crisis in Maths education

It seems to me that when it comes to Maths, the world can be split into Maths: those that love it and enjoy it and those who don’t. There doesn’t seem to be an awful lot in between the two extremes, it’s more of a Marmite subject.

As one of those who falls into the former (love it) category, I can never understand why anyone could not like Maths, it’s the language that describes the natural world around us and has allowed us to build everything from space craft to iPads. When I ask the latter category (hate it) why they dislike the subject so much, they usually bemoan the difficulty of the subject at first, but one factor that always seems to creep in is the way that it’s taught. I’m willing to guess that the proportion of people who fall into the ‘love Maths’ category is small. The number of people who love Maths and then go on to teach it is even smaller. That leads me to think that enthusiastic, knowledgeable Maths teachers are in short supply. My (admittedly limited) field studies amongst parents and friends has confirmed my (jaundiced) view.

If you have decent Maths qualifications, you generally have your pick of attractive job opportunities and teaching will struggle to attract the brightest and best, if only because it doesn’t quite pay on the same scale as banking (another big employer of Maths-lovers).

In a modern economy, we need more schoolchildren to be good at Maths, but to do that, we need more of the recent Maths graduates to go into teaching. If we don’t, we end up in a downward spiral. One way to solve this (apart from paying a lot of money to Maths teachers) is to make it easier to do a bit of Maths teaching on top of other things. Teach First is one way of doing that, another is to use technology. Maths is one of the most popular subjects on Tutorhub and it’s a personal mission to make it easier for people to teach Maths.

We’re looking to solve the problem one Tutorhub session at a time.

A banner year for Bristol sport

Or not.

Many of you that know us at Jiva also know that we ardent sports fans (that’s sounds a little too American, but we’ll live with it). If you include the parts of South Gloucestershire that are really part of the City, there has to be over a million people in Bristol. So how come in the past year, one of our football teams failed to gain promotion from the third tier of English football (despite having the sort of millionaire owner that most teams long for), the other got relegated from the Football League entirely and our rugby team once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and failed to win promotion in a knock out game in against a team that they’d beaten easily in the normal season. Is it possible for an entire city to be ‘born under a bad sign from a sporting perspective?

Rant over.


Square and the continued existence of local customs

I was in New York last week.

That’s not an idle boast regarding my globe-trotting credentials, but a scene setter for something that has occurred to me over the past few weeks. Despite the intentions of most web businesses to be ‘global in reach’, the reality is that most are as heavily influenced by local customs and ways of doing things as your good old-fashioned bricks and mortar (that sounds more and more like a dated term) business. Why do I say this? Because whilst grabbing a coffee at a corner store, I had my first brush with SQUARE, the super hot brainchild of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

Since the service has raised about 400 gazillion dollars in seed funding, I was interested to know how it was going and why they used it. To cut a long story short, because it’s easier for them to charge tips and in NYC in particular (and the US in general) tips are how the people behind the counter make a living. Now, this isn’t necessarily true in London or Berlin, so it seems to me that Square is very much a child of it’s surroundings. Hardly surprising and unique – Facebook gets it’s name from … well, the fact that US schools and colleges had Facebooks (I’m not aware that they appeared anywhere else).

Now in certain parts of the EU, we used to howl in rage at US cultural imperialism via films and hamburger restaurants, but seem to be pretty happy to accept it if it means we can keep in touch with our mates, freunde and amis.

Perhaps it’s time for we British, French and Germans to start imposing our cultural habits upon the US via some cleverly crafted code. Candy Crush doesn’t really fit the bill, but it’s got me thinking about how our cultural oddities could be turned into code and exported overseas. Or maybe it’s just a reminder that if you don’t have the huge amount of cash required to force your way into a foreign market, it’s worth remembering that local custom matters as much on the internet as it does in the real world.


start ups versus self-employed

What actually is a start-up?

Since the Great Recession (not so great for most people), the UK and many other countries have experienced a growth in new business formation. Does this suggest a burst of entrepreneurial zeal or an increase in people starting a business because they couldn’t get a job. People often ask me about entrepreneurship, presumably on the basis that I have some special insight. I don’t. But I do recognise that there are good reasons to ‘start up’ a business and some not so good ones. The first thing to say is that start ups are really hard work compared to normal jobs. And I mean really hard. In my opinion, the best place to be is the owner of a profitable, private company. Next place, a nice comfortable job that you enjoy. Last place, working in a start up because it looks like fun. Or maybe not last place, but you probably get the idea.

Entrepreneurship born of desperation is a term I’ve come across recently. I can’t get a job, so I need to start up something. This sounds like the sort of thing I’d recommend if you’re 20. Great experience, you don’t need much to survive and if you have some mentors, you’ll learn a lot by doing. You may even become the next Zuckerburg. You never know. For everyone else, this sounds like a bad place to be.

Start ups are about making an idea come to fruition, not about creating a cool job for yourself.




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