Hello, I'm Kevin Houston, a mathematician in the School of Mathematics at the University of Leeds.

I'm up for election again!

I'm currently standing for election as the Education Secretary of the London Mathematical Society. If you are a member of the LMS, then you will be eligible to vote.

Why me?

I have served as the Education Secretary for the past year and am again honoured to be nominated by the LMS Nominating Committee.

We have many pressing issues affecting mathematics education. Some of these affect the whole UK, for example Brexit, teacher recruitment and retention, student funding. Some issues are particular to or particularly acute for part of the UK, for example changes to GCSE and A Level, changes to National 5 and Highers, Teaching Excellence Framework, and student debt. The mathematics teacher shortage is probably the most serious threat to the health of mathematics in this country.

Tackling these problems requires us to work effectively with other learned societies. If elected I would like to strengthen our connections to bodies such as the IMA, RSS and ORS. These are vital if the mathematical community is to be heard by government.

In the past year I have worked on a number of committees (Education Committee, LMS Council, LMS Finances and General Purposes Committee, Joint Mathematical Council) and attended a number of other meetings and events (LMS Popular Lectures, ACME Contact group organising meetings, meetings at the Royal Society and elsewhere). I have (amongst other things) joined the ACME A Level contact group, written responses (with the support of the Education Committee and Council) to government consultations -- in particular criticising the shortcomings of the TEF -- and helped secure support for Simon Singh's Top Top Set project. Furthermore, in amongst this I am still working at the sharp end of university teaching (nearly 280 already registered for my first year class!) and so am acutely aware of the pressures we are under.

What next?

Priorities I would like to work on if elected.

Quick summary

If you want to more details of the above, to discuss more, or let me know if there are there any issues in mathematics education that you think require LMS action, then email me: k.houston (at) leeds.ac.uk or use the LMS forum: LMS election forum. I'm keen to know what you think.

My personal statement

More election details can be found here and the following is my personal statement for the election. (There is a word limit.)
I have a strong interest in teaching with 28 years experience of teaching in HE institutions and an award for teaching excellence. My education interests are broad, from face-to-face teaching, publications, digital and innovative exhibitions.

We face a diverse set of problems in mathematics education in the coming years. The effects of Brexit regarding the Erasmus scheme, student recruitment, and lecturer employment are all still unclear. To name just a few other important issues: TEF; changes to GCSE and A Level Mathematics; the crisis mathematics teacher recruitment, retention and training, the Bond report (in particular the call for an Academy for Mathematical Sciences). The LMS is a vital body in addressing these problems. It represents the mathematics community and can therefore ensure that the deficit in mathematical skills in the UK is closed in a robust and practical manner.

The key to success in approaching these issues is liaising with like minded organisations which I am well placed to do due to my relations with bodies such as IMA, ORS, and RSS. The current times present us with real opportunities for change. An exciting positive example is the founding of a maths museum, something I am involved in. I am keen to continue serving the LMS and its members as the Education Secretary.


Picture of ten meshes with local support

My research has traditionally been in Singularity Theory, a long and venerable subject dating back to Newton. Recently I have been working in Discrete Differential Geometry, in particular recent ideas surrounding generalizations of the discrete Laplacian.

My first paper in this area is on compressed manifold modes (CMMs). The Laplace-Beltrami operator on a manifold gives eigenfunctions that are non-zero on a dense subset of the manifold. In certain situations, functions that are zero on most of the manifold but are non-zero on important features are useful. This is what CMMs give us, see the figure on the right for example. In addition to giving a natural ordering of the modes and making some other practical observations, I propose an algorithm that requires on average 47% fewer iterations than the algorithm proposed by Neumann et al who were following in the footsteps of Ozolins et al. See my publications for more information.

If you fancy doing a PhD in this area, then please contact me: k.houston(at)leeds.ac.uk

Mathematical Thinking

My main teaching interest is encouraging (read forcing) students to think, hence the title of my best-selling book, How To Think Like a Mathematician. You might be interested in this taster for it: a free booklet called 10 Ways To Think Like a Mathematician.