The University of Leicester is going to sack its whole maths department (and rehire some of them)


The University of Leicester says it’s facing a big budget deficit, so it’s got to make some cuts. In the current British climate, that’s nothing unusual. However, the university has decided to cut a lot more from the maths department than elsewhere.

The way they’re going to do this is to sack almost everyone, then ask them to re-apply for slightly fewer jobs than there were before. Once it’s all done, 6 of the 21 mathematicians currently working at Leicester will be out of a job.

There’s some speculation that the reason that maths is going to be hit particularly hard is that it didn’t do particularly well in the last iterations of the REF and the National Student Survey.

The Universities and Colleges Union has started a petition against the cuts, disputing the size of the deficit and the need for so many job losses. They’ve written a response laying out their side of the story. The European Mathematical Society has also said it’s very concerned.

Tim Gowers has written a bit more about what he thinks is going on on his blog. As usual, there’s some good discussion in the comments as well.

via Yemon Choi

Photomath can read my writing

I remember when OCR of mathematics was such a difficult problem that there was no good solution. I remember hints some years ago that the then-current version of InftyReader could do a reasonable job of taking a PDF document and converting it into LaTeX code, but it was far from perfect.

Today my phone told me that the app Photomath has an update and now supports handwriting recognition. This means I can write something like this:

and Photomath does this with it:

Do you use mixed fractions?

I’m at the MATRIX conference in Leeds, where I’ve just been talking to Adam Atkinson. He told me that he’s trying to compile a definitive list of countries that don’t use mixed fractions.

Here’s a mixed fraction: \[ 2 \frac{2}{3} \]
And here’s a non-mixed fraction: \[ \frac{8}{3} \]
Actually, here’s an interesting fact about that number: \[ 2 \sqrt{ \frac{2}{3} } = \sqrt{ 2 \frac{2}{3} } \]
This only makes sense if you believe in mixed fractions (and unicode character U+2062, “invisible times”)

This is going to be one of those wipe-your-bum-standing-up situations: it’s entirely possible that you can be on either side of this divide and not know the other exists. Apparently, in some countries mixed fractions just don’t exist: an integer written next to a fraction is incorrect.

So, to help Adam on his way, I thought I’d start another in our long-running series of Aperiodical Surveys. Please tell us where you live, and if mixed fractions are OK in your book.

Maths at the British Science Festival 2016


Next week, the British Science Festival will take place in Swansea, in and around the University. Here’s our round-up of all the mathsiest of the maths events taking place during the week. Our own Katie Steckles will be there introducing most of these events, so you might spot her at the front telling you what to do if there’s a fire. You’ll need to register to book tickets, but all the events are free.