Learned Societies and Professional Associations

Recently the Mathematical Association (MA) have proposed the merger of the MA, the Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM), the Association of Mathematics Education Teachers (AMET), the National Association of Mathematics Advisors (NAMA) and the National Association for Numeracy and Mathematics in Colleges (NANAMIC).

The MA is inviting comments on this here.

Please, please make your voice heard!

Below, are a few personal thoughts – this started as a comment but then seemed too long.

I am completely in favour of the associations merging. A few thoughts are below.

  1. The current situation results in a pretty fragmented state of affairs. There is lots of overlap between the aims of the associations and I think having multiple organisations put out responses to consultations is resulting in a diluted voice. Since organisations such as the NCTM in the US show how successful a large representative organisation can be.
  2. There is currently limited “brand recognition” of the main subject associations. I suspect that many teachers would not know who the ATM or MA are for instance. A recent Twitter poll (sorry I can’t remember who by) also highlighted the widespread confusion between the subject associations and the NCETM. Many people thought the NCETM was a subject association – a single subject association with consistent branding and corporate message would go some way to combating this.
  3. A new subject association would be an ideal time to produce a new, modern website. When compared to websites built from the ground up on a modern technology stack the subject association websites feel incredibly dated (personal opinion I know) and aren’t fully responsive to different devices. It is well known that the first few seconds on a website are incredibly important in driving traffic and engagement – something I think the current websites don’t do terribly well.
  4. There are obvious economies of scale by combining forces, times are hard for many organisations, and associations with relatively small memberships are certainly susceptible to financial pressures. The screenshots below are taken from the Charity Commission website.
  5. I have been involved with 3 associations since being a student. My Granny’s collection of 30+ years worth of Mathematical Gazettes prompted me to join the MA when I was an A-Level student. Following my undergraduate and doctoral study I joined the IMA and when I became a teacher I joined the ATM. Being a member of all 3 is costly, and this can put people off. When it isn’t clear which is best to join, the decision can become “I can’t join all of them so I won’t join any”.
  6. If they do merge I hope the journals remain. The Mathematical Gazette is amazing, and the archives are a great source of mathematical nuggets. The other magazines of the MA and MT by the ATM all have slightly different qualities, it’s hard for me to imagine them not existing in their own right in the future.
  7. I think it is a bit sad that the IMA and LMS haven’t been included in the merger proposal. Not just are they much larger organisations, do we risk missing out on the chance to unify the representation of mathematics and mathematics teaching? The IMA have many members who are teachers, but it often isn’t seen as an association for teachers. It makes me sad that there is often this implicit distinction.
  8. The associations already do much in partnership – how much more powerful could they be if everything was done together? The fact that conferences are sometimes on the same dates for instance seems to be close to an act of self mutilation on the part of the associations.

Anyway, probably enough of my views. Please go and make yourself heard an comment on the consultations.