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Podcast: Episode 15 – Maths news with Sarah Shepherd

These are the show notes for episode 15 of the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast . 15 is the number of letters in the words “uncopyrightable” and “dermatoglyphics”, which in English are the only two longest words there are without repeating a letter. This fact and more about the number 15 from Number Gossip.

This week on the podcast I met Sarah Shepherd, PhD student at the University of Nottingham and Editor of iSquared Magazine and we discussed some maths news. Links to all the articles we mentioned are below.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen has expressed concerned at the prospect of a prenatal test for autism, that this could affect . Read “Autism test ‘could hit maths skills'” from the BBC News website .

The government have launched a campaign which encourages people to improve their numeracy by playing darts. Read “Play darts to help improve your maths skills” from the Telegraph.

England’s Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) have said that interest and recruitment in teaching are up in the global economic crisis. Read “Downturn ‘boosts teacher numbers'” from the BBC.

The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics have released a collection of video clips on their website showing maths being used in work context, “Maths in Work“.

The BBC reported that some schools will being piloting a new “twinned” GCSE. Read “Maths piloted as ‘twinned’ GCSEs” from the BBC.

The New Scientist report on a study which has proposed a solution to the mystery of what happened to the Beagle 2 spacecraft. Read “Flaw may have sent Beagle 2 to a fiery doom” from the New Scientist.

Professor Martin Taylor has been awarded a knighthood in the New Year Honours List. Read “Honour for Royal Society luminary” from the BBC.

There is an interesting interview with the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy – described as “head cheerleader for British science” – in the Times. Read “News Review interview: Marcus Du Sautoy”.

There are two stories covered elsewhere on this blog on the benefits of being a mathematician and the benefits of professional membership.

KPMG claim that children who are bad at maths at school end up costing the taxpayer up to £2.4bn a year. Read “UK maths failures ‘cost £2.4bn'” from the BBC.

England pupils have risen in an international league table for mathematics, according to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Read “English pupils get better at maths and science – but enjoy them less” from the Guardian.

The charity Sense about Science have warned against celebrities misleading claims about science, including Mariah Carey, Delia Smith and Tom Cruise. Read “Stars ‘misleading’ about science” from the BBC.

Finally, I recommended those who are interested in more maths content read Plus Magazine – where I mentioned the story “Automated mathematics” and the careers interview with mathematician and actor Victoria Gould – and iSquared Magazine, where Sarah told us what was in the current issue of iSquared – articles on turing machines, Einstein’s theories of relativitity and a review of the BBC4 programme “The Story of Maths”, now out on DVD. I said university students ought to be receiving an email copy of articles from the IMA members publication Mathematics Today and if they weren’t they should email me.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by reading this blog and visiting

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