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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

Podcast: Episode 8 – Maths news with Sarah Shepherd

These are the shownotes for episode 8 of the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast. Excluding 1, for which the case is trivial, 8 is the smallest number which is equal to the sum of the digits of its cube. More facts about the number 8 from

This week is maths news week on the podcast, I visited Sarah Shepherd, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham and editor of iSquared Magazine and we talked through some maths stories that have been in the news. Links to all the articles we mentioned are below.

Professor Stephen Hawking is to retire from his position as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University after 30 years in October 2009. You can read this story, “Stephen Hawking to retire as Cambridge’s Professor of Mathematics” at the Telegraph.

There was a question in the Guardian from a mathematics graduate looking for careers advice. You can read the relevant “Dr Work” column at the Guardian.

In December, the mathematician and popularisor of mathematics, Marcus du Sautoy will take up Oxford University’s prestigious Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science. Read “Popular face of maths to succeed godless Dawkins” at the Guardian.

Maths Inspiration got an outing on the BBC’s Breakfast programme. You can, at present, view the report on the BBC website. Also on the BBC this month mathematics got an outing on the Qi programme. You can read more about this, and about Russell, in an earlier blog posting. You can, of course, make a donation to Children in Need.

Bletchley Park has received a grant from English Heritage. Read “Bletchley Park saved for posterity” at the Guardian. You can make a donation to Bletchley Park.

The Further Maths Network and Rolls-Royce plc have announced a poster competition for undergraduate or PGCE mathematics students, individually or in groups. The poster should convey the essence of a mathematical topic that has been covered at university by the designer to school and college students studying AS or A level Mathematics. They will award a prize of £100 to each of 2 winning posters and the winning posters will be printed and sent to potentially over 2000 schools and colleges. The closing date is 31 March 2009 and more information can be found at the Further Maths Network website.

The Observor published an extract from “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell, which explores the differences in the language of numerical constructs. Read “Why Asian children are better at maths” at the Observor.

Podcast: Episode 4 – Maths news with Sarah Shepherd

Episode 4. On any plane separated into regions, the regions may be coloured in such a way that no two adjacent regions receive the same colour using no more than four colours. Read a history of the four colour theorem at the MacTutor archive or get more information on the theorem at Wikipedia.

On the podcast this week I sat down with Sarah Shepherd, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham and editor of iSquared Magazine and we talked through some maths stories that have been in the news. Links to all the articles we mentioned are below.

A new prime number has been discovered. Read “Huge new prime number discovered” on the BBC, or “Why 2 to the power of 43,112,609 – 1 = $100,000 for prime number hunters” from the Guardian. Find out more about the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), distributed computing software which uses volunteers’ PCs to search for prime numbers. Finally, the reward for discovering the new prime number is offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The stories about career changers into teaching and the golden hello are “Teaching maths adds up to a great career” from the Birmingham Mail and “Wanted: Maths teacher. £3,000 reward” from the Guardian.

The Ofsted report on maths teaching in England is “Too much maths ‘taught to test'” from the BBC and “Teaching style turns children off maths say inspectors” in the Times.

The reports on Maths Week in the Irish Times are “Magic, mosaics and Pythagoras promote maths for the masses” and “Author of maths books is a real stand-up guy”. You can find out more at the Maths Week website.

A review of the play “A Disappearing Number” is available on the Guardian website.

I mentioned Marcus du Sautoy’s The Story of Maths, for which the BBC4 Story of Maths page and Open University Story of Maths website have more information. The article on teaching maths in historical context by Marcus is “If maths is boring, what is the answer?” from the Telegraph.

Finally, I said there is good reading in Plus Magazine and iSquared Magazine.

Thanks to Sarah Shepherd of iSquared Magazine for joining me for this episode.

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