Podcast: Episode 6 – History with Noel-Ann Bradshaw – Galois

These are the show notes for episode 6 of the Travels in a Mathematical World podcast. 6 is the minimum number of colors that is always sufficient to color any map on a Möbius strip. More about the Möbius strip from The Math Forum and a discussion of the colouring problem at Ask Dr. Math. More facts about number 6 from thesaurus.maths.org.

In the regular Maths History series, Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich and also Meetings Co-ordinator of the British Society for the History of Mathematics talks about the life of Évariste Galois. You can read a short introduction to Galois and his work at h2g2 or read a more detailed biography of Galois at the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. You can read a roundup of group theory at Wikipedia and an introduction to Galois Theory from nrich.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by reading this blog and visiting www.ima.org.uk/student.

Calculating Careers in Manchester

This week I attended the event “Calculating Careers”, a mathematics careers fair at the University of Manchester. I found this a really enjoyable afternoon. I ran an IMA stall in a hall of stalls from employers. I thought a lot about how to run this. I didn’t want to come across as another employer that people wouldn’t have heard of. I wanted to project a different image.

I last ran a stall at another event in Manchester. This went okay but there were large periods of time where everyone was huddled at the far end of the room from my stall. I decided that what was needed for such a stall was something interesting to draw people in. Not that IMA leaflets and copies of Mathematics Today aren’t interesting, but they don’t necessarily draw people from across the room.

I spent some time with some mathematical puzzle books I have picked up in a discount bookshop earlier in the year and chose a few that seemed interesting. I made a little box and collected 2p pieces for a ‘fitting the coins in a box’ game, made some cardboard cut out puzzles and a lot of print outs of a topology drawing puzzle. These seemed well received by the students I met, and by some of my fellow stallholders.

IMA stall at Calculating Careers

I was told at the end by one of the organisers that every time he had been over, my stall had more people at it than the others. So there is something to be said for baiting mathematicians with intellectual curiosities!

Of course, I sent everyone on their way with a Maths Careers website postcard, a copy of “Careers for Mathematicians” by Sue Briault and many of them with information about the IMA, copies of Mathematics Today and even IMA application forms. Hopefully I made some students aware of the existence of the IMA, which is the battle I am trying to win.

Podcast: Episode 5 – Nira Chamberlain, Mathematical Modelling Consultant

Episode 5. The smallest number of queens needed to attack every square on a standard chess board is five. More facts about the number 5 at numbergossip.com and for more about chessboard domination and similar problems a good starting place is the wikipedia article “Eight queens puzzle”.

In this episode of the podcast we hear from Nira Chamberlain, a Mathematical Modelling Consultant. Nira has been profiled by the Maths Careers website and gave the first Plus Careers Podcast interview (available to read and as an mp3).

You can find an overview of the Travelling Salesman Problem at Wolfram Mathworld and there are applets to play with at “TSP Algorithms in Action Animated Examples of Heuristic Algorithms“. A humourous take on the Travelling Salesman Problem can be found at xkcd.com.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by reading this blog and visiting www.ima.org.uk/student.

Thinking Mathematically in Greenwich

Last week I attended an event of the University of Greenwich Mathsoc, “Thinking Mathematically and Learning Mathematics Mathematically” by John Mason. This was very enjoyable, with some interesting problems to highlight aspects of the way people think about mathematics. Nice to exercise my mathematical muscle every now and then.

I took the opportunity when crossing London to meet the President of the Imperial College Mathsoc briefly. At Greenwich I was able to meet the President of the MathSoc there and some his committee, and to pick up a copy of the new issue of their newsletter, The Prime Times. After the talk we retired to a pub on the Greenwich shore of the Thames with a big window looking over the river to Canary Wharf. I got into a conversation about whether mathematicians are being used as scapegoats in the credit crunch with a maths & economics student.

Podcast: Episode 4 – Maths news with Sarah Shepherd

Episode 4. On any plane separated into regions, the regions may be coloured in such a way that no two adjacent regions receive the same colour using no more than four colours. Read a history of the four colour theorem at the MacTutor archive or get more information on the theorem at Wikipedia.

On the podcast this week I sat down with Sarah Shepherd, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham and editor of iSquared Magazine and we talked through some maths stories that have been in the news. Links to all the articles we mentioned are below.

A new prime number has been discovered. Read “Huge new prime number discovered” on the BBC, or “Why 2 to the power of 43,112,609 – 1 = $100,000 for prime number hunters” from the Guardian. Find out more about the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), distributed computing software which uses volunteers’ PCs to search for prime numbers. Finally, the reward for discovering the new prime number is offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The stories about career changers into teaching and the golden hello are “Teaching maths adds up to a great career” from the Birmingham Mail and “Wanted: Maths teacher. £3,000 reward” from the Guardian.

The Ofsted report on maths teaching in England is “Too much maths ‘taught to test'” from the BBC and “Teaching style turns children off maths say inspectors” in the Times.

The reports on Maths Week in the Irish Times are “Magic, mosaics and Pythagoras promote maths for the masses” and “Author of maths books is a real stand-up guy”. You can find out more at the Maths Week website.

A review of the play “A Disappearing Number” is available on the Guardian website.

I mentioned Marcus du Sautoy’s The Story of Maths, for which the BBC4 Story of Maths page and Open University Story of Maths website have more information. The article on teaching maths in historical context by Marcus is “If maths is boring, what is the answer?” from the Telegraph.

Finally, I said there is good reading in Plus Magazine and iSquared Magazine.

Thanks to Sarah Shepherd of iSquared Magazine for joining me for this episode.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by reading this blog and visiting www.ima.org.uk/student.

New Unified Mathematical Society

Over the past two weeks I have hectically followed the Presidents of the IMA and the LMS on a tour of several universities connected to the proposal for the formation of a new mathematical society. I should say my involvement has been nothing compared to the Presidents, who have visits more universities than I, have three more weeks to go and have to actually lead discussions at these universities where I don’t. It is a staggering undertaking for them.

My first trip was last week when I visited the univerisites of Newcastle, York and Leeds. This is a lovely part of the world and the approach to Newcastle by train was stunning despite heavy rain. Below are pictures from Newcastle by night, the mathematics department at Leeds and the Presidents answering questions in York.

Gateshead Millennium Bridge
University of York Department of Mathematics
Presidents answering questions
This week I visited the University of Warwick (pictured below) and attended a seminar by David Abrahams, the President of the IMA, followed by the proposal talk and discussion. Then yesterday I attended my local meeting at the University of Nottingham.

Warwick Mathematical Institute
It is interesting to meet so many members of both organisations and to see some parts of the country which I haven’t previously been to. I have used the opportunity to meet with or get contact details for various university mathematical societies and with more maths grads in Leeds. You can find out more about the proposal at the New Unified Mathematical Society website, as well as some of the questions that have come up on the tour as frequently asked questions.