A conversation about mathematics inspired by an old textbook, Mathematics in Theory and Practice, edited by Warwick Sawyer. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett.
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- Italian recreational mathematican Maurizio Codogno adds some historical context to the problem then posts about how the question as posed provides lots of help.
- La Repubblica gives a round-up of the tough questions in all this year’s exams.
- Il Corriere della Sera offers some takes on the question from experts and Twitter.
- Mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi gives a brief description of how a square-wheeled bicycle works, with lots of discussion in the comments section.
- The Rudi Mathematici post about the question on their blog. They also have an e-zine. Yes, they have an h on their main site but not on their blog. (They write the recreational maths column in the Italian edition of Scientific American.)
- Finally, a thread on it.scienza.matematica picks apart the question a bit more pedantically.
It’s been a busy few months! As per our name, here’s an aperiodically-timed round up of things that have happened in the world of maths in the last few months.
Here’s a round-up of news stories from January 2023.
Maths forever news
The British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that all students will study maths to age 18. The response has been varied, with commentators from both within mathematics and from non-mathematical backgrounds weighing in (with varying degrees of nuance).
However, this isn’t planned to happen soon – only to start the work to introduce this during this Parliament, with actual implementation to happen at an unspecified point in the future.
It’s worth noting that there is a shortage of maths teachers, with nearly half of schools currently using non-specialist maths teachers, according to the TES.
The fact this might make maths a political football is a bit of a problem – the opposition Labour party say “they’ve nothing to offer the country except double maths”. (As much as we love maths, we’ll agree there are more important things to worry about at the moment).
The Chrome browser, and eventually other browsers built on it such as Edge and Opera, can now render MathML without any additional libraries as of version 109. Chrome briefly had some support for MathML, which was removed in 2013 due to lack of interest from Google. The developers who were working on it have kept plugging away, funded by the open source software consultancy Igalia.
Now, you can just put MathML code in a page and expect most browsers to display it, like this:
There’s still a need for MathJax and the like: writing MathML code is no fun, so they’re still useful for translating LaTeX code, and MathJax adds a range of annotations that help with accessibility. But this is a step towards mathematical notation being much easier to work with on the web!
The US National Academies have released a series of posters “Illustrating the impact of the mathematical sciences”.
CLP’s place of work still has some Millennium Maths Project posters clinging on to the walls, older than almost all of the students, so maybe it’s time for a refresh! (via Terence Tao)
A bit of bureaucracy news: the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, comprising the five learned societies for maths and stats in the UK, is creating a new Academy for the Mathematical Sciences. It looks like the societies for the different sub-disciplines have acknowledged they need to work together, though this gives off a “now you have n+1 standards” smell. They’ve got a nice logo, though.
The Financial Times style guide changed so that ‘data’ is always singular, pragmatically following common usage. FT writer Alan Beattie said it best: “For anyone opposed, I’d like to know what your agendum is.“
The London Mathematical Society will hold a ceremony in London on 22nd March to officially award the Christopher Zeeman medal to the 2020 and 2022 medallists, Matt Parker and Simon Singh.
The ICMS in Edinburhgh has launched a “Maths for Humanity” initiative, which will be “devoted to education, research, and scholarly exchange having direct relevance to the ways in which mathematics, broadly construed, can contribute to the betterment of humanity.” (via Terence Tao)
Does this picture make you think of Srinvasa Ramanujan? I’m always fascinated by the pace and range of little conversations with my seven-year-old son that wander in and out of maths. Let me tell you how we got there during a five minute chat while leaving the house and walking to school this morning.
A conversation about mathematics inspired by a plate of biscuits. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett, with special guest Alison Kiddle. What do you notice? What do you wonder?
Alison’s Noticing and wondering page.
We also mentioned A Problem Squared Episode 014 = Final Cheese Drama and Quick-Fire-O-Rama.
A conversation about mathematics and education inspired by a hundred square. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett, with special guest Susan Okereke.
There have been various stories in the Italian press and discussion on a Physics teaching mailing list I’m accidentally on about a question in the maths exam for science high schools in Italy last week.
The paper appears to be online.
(Ed. – Here’s a copy of the first part of this four-part question, reproduced for the purposes of criticism and comment)
The question asks students to confirm that a given formula is the shape of the surface needed for a comfortable ride on a bike with square wheels. (Asking what the formula was with no hints would clearly have been harder.) It then asks what shape of polygon would work on another given surface.
What do people think? Would this be a surprising question at A-level in the UK or in the final year of high school in the US or elsewhere? Of course, I don’t know how similar this question might be to anything in the syllabus in licei scientifici.
The following links give a flavour of the reaction to the question:
6 hours, 1 question out of 2 in section 1, 5 out of 10 in section 2. My own initial reaction is that if I had to do this exam right now I’d do question 2 in section 1 but I’ve not actually attempted question 1 yet.