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Review: Snowflake Seashell Star, by Alex Bellos & Edmund Harriss


Snowflake Seashell Star is a new mathematical colouring book, by Alex Bellos and Edmund Harriss, aimed at the lucrative ‘grown-up colouring books’ market that’s sprung up recently, heavily intersected with people who are interested in maths – the book can be used as a regular colouring book, but contains lots of interesting mathematical things, and mathematicians will love it. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from maths adventurer Bellos and mathematical artist and tiling fan Harriss, whose personalities both come through in the book – from the beautiful illustration to the playful style (and there’s a sneaky Harriss Spiral in there too).

The first thing I did in order to properly review the book was check an important mathematical fact, in case anyone was worried. And yes, everything in it is colourable using four colours or fewer. Phew.

News Round-up, 21/10/14

Here’s some quick stories from the world of maths this week.

Maths at the Manchester Science Festival

Manchester Science Festival takes over the city from 23rd October – 2nd November this year, and it’s got a great selection of mathematical events. If you’re based locally, or thinking of heading over there for any of the time, here’s The Aperiodical’s guide to where to get your factorial fix.

IMA 50th Anniversary events


The IMA turns 50 this year, and is holding two celebration events and publishing a book.

3.142: a π round-up

Pi pie by Robert Couse-Baker. Photo used under the CC-BY 2.0 license.

π pie by Robert Couse-Baker. Photo used under the CC-BY 2.0 licence.

‘Tis the season to celebrate the circle constant!1 Yes, that’s right: in some calendar systems using some date notation, the day and month coincide with the first three digits of π, and mathematicians all over the world are celebrating with thematic baked goods and the wearing of irrational t-shirts.

And the internet’s maths cohort isn’t far behind. Here’s a round-up (geddit – round?!) of some of our favourites. In case you were wondering, we at The Aperiodical hadn’t forgotten about π day – we’re just saving ourselves for next year, when we’ll celebrate the magnificent “3.14.15”, which will for once be more accurate to the value of π than π approximation day on 22/7. (Admittedly, for the last few years, 3.14.14 and so on have strictly been closer to π than 22/7. But this will be the first time you can include the year and feel like you’re doing it right.)

  1. Pedants would have me revise that to “circle constant”. []

How to Teach Maths by Alex Bellos on Radio 4

Media math-man Alex Bellos has made another programme for BBC Radio 4, this time about How to Teach Maths.

Alex Bellos takes you on a mathematical learning journey from the first stages of number recognition through to an understanding of how children solve sums and calculate answers. On the way he will look at the neuroscience of maths and how our mathematical brain develops. He investigates the scientific evidence behind teaching maths and he’ll compare how modern methods of teaching children differ from those taught to their parents, helping kids today go beyond basic numeracy to develop a passion for numbers.

By the way, Radio 4 have also been repeating Marcus du Sautoy’s enjoyable A Brief History of Mathematics at a quarter to two each afternoon. That’s also available to listen to on the Radio 4 website.

Listen: How to Teach Maths on BBC Radio 4.