Senior Statistician

Job description

About Sparx

Sparx is a scientifically driven and research based educational technology company. We are using technology, data and real-world classroom observations to scientifically investigate the way young people learn. Using technology to dive deep into the learning process, we explore and analyse what works and what doesn’t, and deliver more personalised, evidence-driven lessons and homework that produces results.

Role summary

Data and a rigorous scientific approach is at the heart of Sparx. We have a fantastic data environment in place and a talented team using it already – and we are looking to build on it further. Senior Statistician is a key role to help us take it to the next level, and will involve:

  • Acting as a technical expert in the team, with particular focus on modelling, algorithms and trials, tapping into a strong theoretical and practical background. 
  • Hands-on involvement, rapidly trying new approaches and problem solving directly with senior stakeholders, including our statistician CEO.
  • Interacting with the rest of the team, mentoring and sharing technical expertise.
 
Full job description

Sparx is a truly data-driven company, with a statistician as our founder and CEO, and the data team at the heart of what Sparx does. We are passionate about using data and a rigorous, scientific approach to transforming education.

We already have a really strong data set-up. We collect data on each student using the Sparx product attempting thousands of problems per year, with millions of data points at our fingertips. Our data team, full of mathematicians and statisticians, uses this information, along with internal and external domain expertise, to understand how the students are performing and predict how to maximise their future learning. We constantly work on further improving our understanding and predictions, through better data science approaches and using better data, with the support of our in-house development team.

As a Senior Statistician, you’ll be instrumental in helping us take our data science to the next level. You will act as a technical expert in the team, comfortable problem solving and discussing the best methods and approaches to predict and model student behaviours, run live trials and improve our algorithms. You’ll have a critical appreciation for the limitations of our approaches and our data, based on a solid theoretical and practical foundation, and be able to clearly communicate what we can and cannot do with it.

At the same time, you’ll be able to translate your expertise into a pragmatic way forward, getting into the action and quickly doing things yourself, e.g., as proof of concept or to test a different approach. You’re at home working with vast, messy data sets, but you’re equally happy to use a simple solution if that’s the right way to approach a problem and do not get excited by complexity for its own sake. With an insatiably inquisitive nature and sharp analytical mind, you look beyond the numbers, using data to question, challenge, solve problems and tell stories, focussing on the detail without losing sight of the bigger picture. As a result, you will be comfortable working directly with senior stakeholders, including our statistician CEO, to rapidly evaluate ideas and prototype solutions.

Finally, you will be working closely with the rest of the data team, sharing your experience and acting as a data science mentor. You will be at the heart of key topics driven by the data team, multi-tasking and being a great team player committed to the success of the project. You’ll always keep in mind the context that we are working in: these are real students in real schools and it’s our mission to give them the best mathematics education that we possibly can.

Key responsibilities:

  • Develop statistical models and analytical routines that understand, track and predict student performance. Work with other teams to present this performance in an intuitive, actionable manner to students, teachers and parents.
  • Design and implement rigorous trials to validate hypotheses about student learning, and use the insights to continuously improve Sparx products.
  • Develop algorithms, combining domain expertise within the company and the data collected, to optimise the product. For example, you might investigate: the optimal question to ask next given a student’s past performance; which questions are consistently misunderstood; or which actions taken by students benefit their learning the most.
  • Proactively problem solve and suggest how to improve lesson flow, content, rewards and algorithms, as well as develop new tools and procedures.
  • Produce compelling visualisations to display data in appropriate formats for both scientists and non-­scientists to understand and use.
  • Advise and mentor other data scientists on the appropriate statistical and data analysis tools and approaches, acting as the expert within the team.
  • Be positive and infectiously enthusiastic about the values and vision of Sparx.

Requirements

About you

Here are some of the skills and qualifications we are looking for:

Essential:

  • Degree in Statistics or Mathematics or a subject with significant exposure to statistics
  • 7+ years experience in analysing data sets with millions of data points using Python, R, MATLAB, SAS or similar
  • Experience in applying statistical approaches to practical problems in a business context, in particular developing predictive models using a range of techniques
  • Sound knowledge of basic statistical techniques such as linear models, general linear models and k-means. Beyond the basics, we expect you to be conversational in a wide range of techniques and an expert in a few. You understand and are able to explain the theoretical basis of the techniques you have used
  • Understanding of experimental design principles

Desirable:

  • Teaching and/or tutoring experience and knowledge of education and the school system
  • People or project management experience
  • Experience with conducting online experiments using A/B trials and their variants


Additional background 

Every year, around 40% of UK students who sit GCSE Maths fail to obtain a grade 4 or higher (previously grade C). This is an alarming statistic and is one of the fundamental issues motivating Sparx. We want everyone to fulfil their learning potential, and be excited and motivated about learning.

Founded by Mark Dixon and Glenn Woodcock in 2011, Sparx employs over 70 people, all of whom are working to create a learning platform that can be rolled out across schools in the UK. The platform includes ‘big data’, granular content and gaming, all of which are carefully brought together and fashioned into a system capable of significantly improving the pace and quality of learning. Data captured from the lessons is truly remarkable, allowing real-time feedback which enables the re-positioning of certain concepts, to better the students’ understanding of the material. The impact of this work is potentially transformational. It is a major initiative and a tremendous opportunity.
 
Our team

We’re about living life, not putting it on hold. Our generous benefits include substantial holiday leave and the chance to join our company pension. We have a range of on-site facilities for all employees to use free of charge. On site we have a netball court, a five-a-side football pitch, a running track, a pool table, an Olympic table tennis table, as well as an on-site gym with classes throughout the day. Our café serves delicious, local, and organic food. Did we mention it’s all free? On top of this you’ll have great views from your office window of the foothills of Dartmoor and boats out at sea on the horizon – with the beach just 20 minutes away. Plus, we’re constantly organising events and activities to support our charities, and to socialise. Our work is serious but we’re all about having fun while we do it!