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Institute of Education

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Q&A with Professor Richard Noss

1  What is your role and what does it involve?
I am currently on sabbatical, writing and co-directing a major project called ScratchMaths, on the role of programming in young children's learning of mathematics. Funded by the Education Endowment Fund, it is the latest and largest-scale research study of its kind.

2  How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I have been working at the Institute of Education for 30 years, and have been a professor of Mathematics Education here since 1996. I have spent most of my time at the IOE researching and designing for the space between mathematical learning and computer programming.

In 2004 I founded the London Knowledge Lab (now UCL Knowledge Lab), and served as its director until 2016 with a twofold mission: to understand and to design ways in which new digital technologies can support and transform learning and teaching throughout the life course, at home and at work.

3  What's the most important thing you've learned from your students about the subject you teach?
The problem of learning about learning maths is as complex as learning maths!

4  What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
Writing 'Windows on Mathematical Meanings: Learning, Culture and Computers' with Celia Hoyles in 1996; founding the London Knowledge Lab in 2004 and recruiting an interdisciplinary team to establish its international reputation; and directing the final phase - Technology Enhanced Learning - of the Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme from 2007-2012.

5  Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list.
I am co-directing the ScratchMaths project with Celia Hoyles. Its big idea is to build new pieces of the mathematics curriculum that are expressed as programs by learners. ScratchMaths involves more than 100 schools, some 200 teachers and 3000 pupils of all abilities. The project launched in 2014 and is an intervention for pupils aged 9-11 years.

It's incredibly exciting that finally, thanks to the ubiquity of computers and the accumulated knowledge we've gained about how to use them, we are taking a major step forward at last in finding new, more learnable kinds of mathematics that are intellectually empowering.

6  What would it surprise people to know about you?
I play jazz/blues piano but only when no-one is listening.

7  What other piece of research outside of your own subject area interests you?
Linguistics, music, neuroscience - the list is quite long!