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Christmas images using parabolic curves and TikZ

Katie is running an Aperiodical advent calendar (Aperiodvent 2018), with fun maths Christmas treats every day. Behind the door for 7th December was Parabolic Sewing.

This is not unrelated to what I submitted as my entry to The Big Internet Math-Off last summer. I have been revisiting this idea ready for a class next week in my second year programming module.

Maths at the British Science Festival 2018

British Science Festival logoGuest author Kevin Houston has written a round-up of maths-related events at next week’s British Science Festival.

The British Science Festival is taking place in Hull and the Humber 11-14th September. There are lots of talks so I’ve put together a handy guide to talks with a mathematics-related theme.

Wikiquote edit-a-thon – Saturday, May 12th, 2018

TL;DR: We’re holding a distributed Wikipedia edit-a-thon on Saturday, May 12th, 2018 from 10am to improve the visibility of women mathematicians on the Wikiquotes Mathematics page. Join in from wherever you are! Details below, and in this Google Doc.


Extension and abstraction without apparent direction or purpose is fundamental to the discipline. Applicability is not the reason we work, and plenty that is not applicable contributes to the beauty and magnificence of our subject.
– Peter Rowlett, “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, Nature 475, 2011, pp. 166-169.

Trying to solve real-world problems, researchers often discover that the tools they need were developed years, decades or even centuries earlier by mathematicians with no prospect of, or care for, applicability.
– Peter Rowlett, “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, Nature 475, 2011, pp. 166-169.

There is no way to guarantee in advance what pure mathematics will later find application. We can only let the process of curiosity and abstraction take place, let mathematicians obsessively take results to their logical extremes, leaving relevance far behind, and wait to see which topics turn out to be extremely useful. If not, when the challenges of the future arrive, we won’t have the right piece of seemingly pointless mathematics to hand.
Peter Rowlett, “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, Nature 475, 2011, pp. 166-169.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have every admiration for Peter and his work; his is a thoughtful voice of reason, and it’s not at all unreasonable for the Wikiquote page on mathematics to cite his writing.

Exactly how bad is the 13 times table?

Let’s recite the $13$ times table. Pay attention to the first digit of each number:

\begin{array}{l} \color{blue}13, \\ \color{blue}26, \\ \color{blue}39, \\ \color{blue}52 \end{array}

What happened to $\color{blue}4$‽

A while ago I was working through the $13$ times table for some boring reason, and I was in the kind of mood to find it really quite vexing that the first digits don’t go $1,2,3,4$. Furthermore, $400 \div 13 \approx 31$, so it takes a long time before you see a 4 at all, and that seemed really unfair.

Math Teachers at Play #104

Welcome to #104 of the Math Teachers At Play (MTaP) blog carnival. A blog carnival is a regular blogging round up coordinated by someone (in this case Denise Gaskins) that moves around different blogs each edition. This time, I’m taking a turn.

Katie’s Binary Nails Tutorial – and a puzzle

I’ve just posted my latest YouTube video, in which I explain how to use binary numbers to jazz up your nail varnish:

Alongside this video, I also have an associated puzzle for you to think about.

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