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Survey finds pupils rate STEM jobs but find STEM subjects too difficult or boring

The Telegraph reports that a survey of career aspirations of 1,000 pupils aged six to 16 by the Royal Institution’s L’Oreal Young Scientist Centre has been published to coincide with the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham this week.

Findings reported  include:

49.4 per cent of children thought STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) were too difficult or boring while 15 per cent thought they were only relevant to jobs in medicine.

The Telegraph gives the “top ten dream careers” given by pupils in the survey (remember the age range is six to 16!):

1. Professional Athlete
2. Performer
3. Secret Agent
4. Firefighter
5. Astronaut
6. Veterinarian
7. Doctor
8. Teacher
9. Pilot
10. Zoo Keeper

The Mirror, coving the same story, highlights that this list includes “being a vet, an astronaut, a pilot, a doctor or a zoo keeper”, and points out that all of these need STEM qualifications.

The focus of both articles is on cuts to careers advice since the election. David Porter, Manager of the Royal Institution’s L’Oréal Young Scientist Centre, is quoted saying: “Face to face careers guidance is extremely important, but this survey shows that students are not all receiving the right guidance to lead them in the right direction.”


Telegraph: Half of children find science and maths too difficult or too boring.
Mirror: Careers advice cuts could be putting kids off science.

Maths Careers photo competition

The Maths Careers website has launched its Maths Photo Competition 2012. The competition is open to four categories: 11-13, 14-16, 17-19 and Undergraduate (one entry per person per category). This asks entrants to take a photo (with no people in the photo) and add “an exciting, maths related caption”. The prize is a £100 Amazon voucher.

A full set of rules and a submission form is available via the Maths Careers website.

Mockus, mathematician-king

Charlotte Bouckaert shared this story on Google+. It’s about Antanas Mockus, a mathematician and philosopher who was elected mayor of Bogotá twice. It’s a fascinating read.

People were desperate for a change, for a moral leader of some sort. The eccentric Mockus, who communicates through symbols, humor, and metaphors, filled the role. When many hated the disordered and disorderly city of Bogotá, he wore a Superman costume and acted as a superhero called “Supercitizen.” People laughed at Mockus’ antics, but the laughter began to break the ice of their extreme skepticism.

I think I’d heard about Mockus before on an episode of From Our Own Correspondent, but it’s good to read more about his exploits, and that he seems to be genuinely popular with the citizens of Bogotá even after his term has ended.

via Charlotte Bouckaert.

HyperRogue II – a roguelike on the hyperbolic plane

I was directed to this game by a retweet by @haggismaths. It’s a roguelike (text-based explorey role-playing adventure game) which takes place on the hyperbolic plane. It’s a lot of fun. It’s hard to get your head round the fact that there’s a lot more stuff in between two lines in hyperbolic space than in Euclidean space, so it’s very hard to find your way back somewhere after it disappears over the horizon.


You can download a windows executable, or source code which will compile on Linux, at

How to calculate π

A new post is available over at Second-Rate Minds by Peter Rowlett.

How would you calculate ? I remember being sent as a boy of ten into the schoolyard to find circular objects to measure. Our attempts to wrap a tape around a dustbin lid clearly did not represent the optimal method. Perhaps you know a few digits of . Starting from scratch, how would you find …

Read the full post: “How to calculate π

Jonathan Millican wins UK Cyber Security Challenge

This BBC press release/story informs us that a Cambridge computer science student called Jonathan Millican has won the UK Cyber Security Challenge.

The BBC story described the competition as “GCHQ-backed”, which made me think it was about, but that seems not to be the case. This thing was apparently a series of competitions sponsored by private companies, leading up to a final at HP Labs in Bristol.

Apart from the GCHQ link, there doesn’t seem to be much mathematical meat in the story – the final challenge seemed to be assessing contestants’ abilities to devise security plans while “appreciating the business situation in which the events happen” which I think is a euphemism for “not spending too much money”.

Math/Maths 88: Entertaining, or illegal?

A new episode of the Math/Maths Podcast has been released.

A conversation about mathematics between the UK and USA from This week Samuel and Peter spoke about: Haptic Math App; model of how buds grow into leaves; Mathematical Model Explains How Hosts Survive Parasite Attacks; Sperm Can Do Calculus; Hit game shows like Deal or No Deal and Play Your Cards Right could be forced off air after gambling watchdog claims that they break the law; Mathematical Horoscopes; National Numeracy; Afraid of Your Child’s Math Textbook? You Should Be.; Awards for statistical excellence in journalism; and much more.

Get this episode: Math/Maths 88: Entertaining, or illegal?