# You're reading: Posts Tagged: maths in the news

### Here’s How Little I See Your Point

You may have seen an article linked to last week, written by Jordan Weissmann at The Atlantic. The article was titled ‘Here’s How Little Math Americans Actually Use At Work‘, although mysteriously this journalist makes use of some mathematical analysis of survey data, and not only that, the data appears to show that 94% of Americans claim to use mathematics as part of their daily job.

The article discusses people’s misconceptions about the future utility of what they were learning, as well as the divide between using ‘any math’ and ‘advanced math’, which includes calculus, algebra and statistics. The number of Americans who admitted to using this type of maths appears to drop off once you get to anything more complicated than fractions, and also presented is an analysis of this divide by job type.

A very well-written and thoughtful response to this has already been posted at mathematics professor Bret Benesh’s blog, which gives four reasons why the article annoyed him (and probably several other people too).

### ‘Maths whizz’ ‘predicts’ Grand National ‘winner’

Cambridge News is reporting that “maths whizz” and Cambridge maths masters graduate1 William Hartston has devised a system for predicting the winner at the Grand National on Saturday. Apparently he “looked at the number of letters in a horse’s name and the name’s first letter, the number of words the name contains and the horse’s age”. His system scores horses on a scale of up to 16 points; horses with one-word names beginning with the letters S, R, M or C and consisting of eight or 10 letters score well. The system apparently also takes age into account, which seems reasonable, but not the many other factors you might expect.

Hartston is quoted saying that Seabass is favourite to win as “the only horse with consistently high scores across all four criteria as it begins with S, is a one-word name, aged 10 years and has seven letters which is only slightly short of the preferred eight”. In fact, two horses scored 13 points, but Seabass has been chosen over Tatenen due to the mysterious claim “the latter’s scoring pattern was not as consistent as that of the former”. I’m unsure if this means that Tatenen’s name has changed.

And the work was “commissioned” by William Hill.

So far, so nonsense formula based on spurious correlations, but is that all there is to it? I always find it hard to believe that these stories are written or published, but there is something about Hartston as a source that seems especially strange.

1. I particularly like how Click Liverpool has: “A “Master of Maths” has developed a formula…” as though “Master of Maths” is a made up thing. []

### All Squared, Number 2 – Pancake formula

Here’s the second edition of our new podcast, All Squared. This time we talked to Dr Andrew Taylor, PhD, about nonsense formulas in the news. In particular, since we recorded very close to pancake day, we took a close look at the various “formulas for the perfect pancake” printed in UK newspapers.

### Maths Week Ireland 2012

As fans of maths, you’ll all be pleased to hear that in Ireland, they’ve basically got the correct attitude to maths, which is to say they dedicate a whole $\frac{1}{52}$ of their time to it. That’s right, they have an annual Maths Week, now in its ninth year, during which events are organised all over the country, the national and local media get involved, and generally try to get everyone talking about maths.

### The London Pie

EDF Energy, one of the pantheon of Olympics sponsors, has opted to share its love for energy through its ‘Energy of the Nation’ project, launched earlier this week. By monitoring the nation’s positive and negative ‘energy’, by which they mean ‘things they are saying on Twitter’, they’ll turn the London Eye into a giant pie chart each evening at 9pm and display the results of the previous 24 hours’ sentiments over the course of 24 minutes. While my approval of such a large act of data representation is practically off the (pie) chart, I’m interested to find out how it works before judging it either way.

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### How I Unofficially Broke The World Record That Never Was

One of the 70-digit subtraction sums I did for training purposes.

In April, a gentleman called B. Sai Kiran became, briefly, internet-famous for doing arithmetic. In Hyderabad, he subtracted a 70-digit number from another in the barest smidgen over a minute – 60.05 seconds, at the second attempt.