Archive for the ‘Math in society’ Category

Time to Change How We Teach Mathematics

There is often a presumption that some people can ‘do maths’ and others simply can’t. The idea that many people are destined to fail in maths whatever their intentions, is rather an outdated belief but amazingly one that is often prevalent in mainstream schools.


There is of course no doubt that some pupils are able to learn maths much more easily than others, but many academics are beginning to believe that this is more to do with how they are taught than any intrinsic mathematical ability.  Could  it be that our maths teaching methods are actually to blame in why some people feel left out of mathematical knowledge?

One academic from Stanford believes that there is a big problem in how pupils in most of the world are taught maths.     One of the issue that Jo Boaler highlights is that many children simply believe that mathematics is a subject where the answers are either right or wrong.  This is perhaps because the school classroom environment focuses on coming up with ‘right’ answers quickly rather than truly understanding the subject.

She suggests in her book Mathematical Mindsets that there should be much less focus on testing in maths, less worrying about failure and a much wider use of visual representation and manipulatives.  These manipulatives are items which can be used to explain concepts that can be handled like blocks, cubes and shapes, best used in group work.

There is definitely an idea that in maths, there is only right or wrong, success and failure as opposed to other subjects which have a much more widespread definitions.  There is also a significant perception that maths success doesn’t need hard work – if you are a mathematically minded individually everything will come very easily.

The concept works towards a growth mindset which encourages children to believe that they are all capable of achieving anything and it is not a talent that you are simply born with.   Many educators are now buying into this vision and changing the way they teach maths including using video presentations using products like Content Samurai.

The Professor’s ideas are often controversial, even recently she complained that schools should ban the learn by rote of times tables.  The focus she says was wrong and that the goal of maths education should be greater than simply learning these by memory.  These views were not popular and many teachers pointed out that actually times tables were extremely important and should be viewed at the very least an educational entitlement.

For Further reference

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Does Maths Education Need an Overhaul

Maths has been taught in most UK schools in much the same way for a few decades. The situation is the same in lots of developed countries, sure there have been tweaks to teaching methods and curriculum changes but the main focus is pretty much the same.

Maths can be an unappealing subject for many students, it’s not instantly exciting and the prospects of well paid jobs seems unlikely. Of course, we know that it is not the case – the level of your maths education has a huge connection to future income potential. Many countries appreciate a mathematical education, getting a US visa is actually easier if you have maths qualification for example.  Check out what is available in British Universities you can even take some of the online courses but you may need a British IP address like this.


There are increasing shortages though, Universities and employers are always complaining about the lack of mathematical candidates. Maths is a skill which is actually used in so many areas, there is a constant, unrelenting demand. Which is why many people think that we should change the way that maths is taught in our schools.

One of the main problems is that the need for certain maths skills has changed radically in the last few decades. Mathematics in schools is taught as a method of calculating – but do we need to do this anymore. Computers and quick methods of calculation are so readily available and easy to use.

For example although most of us were taught to calculate things in our head, how many of us even bother when we can just use our phone or the calculator on our desktop. Much of our further mathematics is done by computer too, processing power means that we can now no longer compete with computers when it comes to number crunching.

There has been a revolution in the use of maths but it has not been reflected in how we teach the subject.Technology means that complex models can be used very easily without days or months of associated number crunching. Computers can simply apply complicated numerical models and provide answers quickly. Calculation is pretty irrelevant, we can never compete with computers and why should we try.

what use is teaching children how to do long division manually, or why should they struggle with quadratic equations or mental arithmetic.  Should we be teaching children maths in the context of the tools that are now available – that is of course computers.

Further Information on VPNs – available here.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Halloween Party – don’t forget the too fun

Remember kids, life is more than just math and homework. Sometimes it’s actually ok to just relax, put on a costume, and go out and have some fun with the other kids.
Halloween is one of those times, and here at Mathsurvey, it’s out favorite time a year. Not only to we get to dress out in awesome costumes, like zombies, witches or other cool monsters, we also get a chance to go around scaring the smaller children and their parents even give us candy for doing it!
Yesterday I talked to my friend Pete from, a website selling Halloween kostumer of all kinds. According to Pete, people have been buying more and more costumes over the last 10 years. He things this is because more people care about this great holiday and wants to take part in it, this goes for both the kids and for the older people too. But also because where we before were more likely to make our own costumes, we now buy them instead, and there are two reasons for that.
The first is that we are more willing to spend money on things like Halloween kostumer, but also the quality of costumes and the amount we have to choose between has increased a lot over the last years.

Halloween isn’t just for the kids, even though there arn’t anything cuter than a 5 year old monster, trying to scare you. It’s also becomming very popular the people in their 20’s (or even older), because it’s a great way of throwing a kick ass, Halloween party for your friends.
You get to decorate the house, as scary as you want, with spiders, spiderwebs, bones, coffins etc. But you also get to tell you friends, that they have to come in somekind of Halloween Costume, and if you feel up for it, bake a Halloween cake or other types of scary food.
If you haven’t tried this because, it’s something I can strongly recommend, while it’s normally quite fun to have a party, having a Halloween Party is twice as fun. Partying as a zombie, just makes everything a lot more cool!

My favorite party was a few years ago, when me and 5 guys from class, had a Harry Potter theme, and we all dressed out as our favorite Harry Potter character on Halloween. We all ended up playing our own version of Quidditch at 3AM, out on the street, it was hilarious.

What I am trying to say here, is that even through we all know that it’s important to focus on school, it’s also important to somethings just let go, put on your favorite costume and go have as much fun as possible with your friends, without having to think about homework or even math.

Web: Visit website

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Mathematicians Find Perfect Shape

There is often a criticism leveled at mathematicians that much of their work has limited real world applications.   Mathematicians can often spend years pondering complex equations and defining complicated proofs to see their work greeted with a sigh of ‘so what’ from their non-mathematician colleagues.

However the latest discover in the realm of geometry will actually have a host of real-life applications which could affect all of us.  The discovery is that of a pentagon which can actually completely tile a floor without overlapping or leaving any gaps.



It’s the result of work by three Washington based maths researchers working together in a field often referred to as ’tiling the plane’, this discovery is only the 15th type of non-regular pentagon which has ever been discovered.  The news has caused great excitement in the maths world, one colleague described it as the equivalence of discovering a new atomic particle for physicists.

The scientists responsible include Professor Casey Mann, his wife Jennifer Mcloud-Mann and an undergraduate researcher David Von Derau.  There are more details on their websites and on the Washington University site although you may need an American IP address to access.

So why a Pentagon?

While a  triangle and square can be arranged to tile in virtually limitless sizes and structures.  It has been proven mathematically that any irregular convex, polygon which has more than six sides  cannot.  This has led to the challenge of creating non traditional pentagons to be used in tiling, a difficult and complex task.  It was nearly a hundred years ago in 1918 that a German mathematician discovered that you can in fact use pentagons to tile.  Not many have been discovered so far though, a San Diego housewife discovered five of them and this is only the 15th and the first one for over thirty years.

These particular mathematicians specialize in this area of tiling and knot theory (an equally practical related area).  They did however begin to doubt that any other shapes could be found, computer models were used to research possibilities which were then investigated by the mathematicians themselves.

Further Reading:

Proxy Unblocker –




facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

UK Firms Need Migrant Math Skills

Maths has never been one of the trendy subjects to be studied in further education. For a variety of reasons, it’s often perceived as difficult with limited direct links to good employment opportunities. This unfortunately is highly misleading as maths is in huge demand among employers in all sorts of areas. So much so that Uk firms say that there is a genuine shortage of maths skills and they are having to rely on UK migrants rather than employ British candidates.


A recent report has said that there is an urgent need to improve ‘post 16’ maths skills in British students. Particularly in areas which require statistical and quantitative skills (QS), there is a shortage of people with the relevant skills. Maths is often seen as a subject to be studied up until 16 and then switched in preference to other subjects. The report calls for the UK Government to encourage more students to study maths at a higher level in order to keep up with other countries like the US for example.

In the UK, many of the top UK QS jobs are filled with people who were born outside the United Kingdom. In fact two thirds of those covered in the survey, had arrived in the UK over the last ten years. This situation differed from most other employment sectors which suggest there is a specific problem attracting UK candidates with the requisite skills.

The opportunities for the economy to tap into the ‘big data’ revolution are increasing every year, yet without a supply of skilled maths graduates then the UK could start falling behind. The potential needs to be highlighted particularly to students who are considering options for advanced study.

The challenges for the UK education sector to meet that demand are evident, however the rewards are also there too. There is a report on the BBC News Online education sector site, see this to access from the Centre for Economic and Business Research Unit who suggest that nearly 60,000 new jobs which require specific mathematics skills will be created up until 2017.

Dame Jil Matheson, chair of the British Academy project, said: “For our ambition to be fully realised within a generation, we must not underestimate the cultural change that is required – starting now – primarily, but not entirely, with the UK’s education systems.”

Further Reading:

BBC Australia – Source


facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Want a Great Job – Study Maths

It’s often something that is levelled at Mathematics for those considering studying, what sort of job can I get?  There is perhaps an idea that mathematics is associated with a very narrow job range or academia, however the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

The reality is that a maths degree opens the door to some of the most interesting and best paid jobs available.  A recent survey by Careercast has perfectly illustrated this with maths related jobs appearing heavily in it’s top ten.  People with maths skills have access to a host of well paid career opportunities and each year the possibilities seem to increase possibly due to the shortage of skilled mathematicians.

Here’s a quick look at some of the top jobs in the survey:

  • Actuary – studying and evaluating the probability of future events,  including in insurance and scientific industries.
  • Audiologist – Involves the diagnosis and treatment of hearing problems.
  • Mathematician – experts who apply mathematical theories and formulas are in demand in all sorts of industries.
  • Statisticians – a specialised mathematician who deals in analysing statistical data in things like surveys and experiments.
  • Biomedical Engineer – analysing and designing solutions in biology and medicine, specifically looking at improving patient care.
  • Data Scientist – new entry brought into existence by ‘big data’. Combines IT, Statistics and other disciplines to analyse trends in data.
  • Dental hygienist –  profession involves cleaning teeth, examining patients.
  • Software engineer – research, design and create software and hardware systems for a variety of purposes across a whole range of industries.

It’s obvious to see a pattern, both mathematics and health care feature heavily across these highly rated jobs.   The above roles are of course fairly generic and there are many thousands of variants of many of them working in all sorts of different industries.  If you look at further down the list, the computer industry is one that is also featured very heavily.  It’s interesting that many people with maths and computer backgrounds are nowadays often self employed too, in fact some of the world’s biggest companies started like this.  There are some interesting documentaries about these subjects on both American and UK TV who often broadcast shows focussed on jobs and entrepreneurs – check out these tools to use proxies to access these TV stations like the BBC.

It perfectly illustrates how you should not get caught up in common perceptions of specific subjects.  At first it would seem that maths is linked to quite a narrow cross section of career possibilities where as in reality it’s completely the opposite.  In fact qualifications in maths often open many doors without closing some, for example many IT and computer companies prefer to train maths graduates from scratch rather than take people with a programming or IT background.

James Hevin

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Is math boring?

If you ask a typical 8th grade class the question – “What is the most boring topic in school?”, most of them would say Math. Philip Seaway from Billig Protein did such a test earlier this year, and the result came as no surprise. The most obvious answer to why the results are this way, would likely be that, all a lot of the fun stuff in mathematics, is something you learn at later point. So he had Billig Protein do a new test, this time in high school to see if there math was still the most boring class. Once again Math came out as the winner, but not by quite such a large margin as the test result from the 8th graders. Here other classes such as History or various foreign languages classes was also topping the list of most boring classes.

Why do so many consider math to be boring?
Even as the test by Philip Seaway from Billig Protein came as no surprise to most of us, it’s hard for us who love mathematics to understand why people find it boring. One of the reasons could be that it’s because in most schools, it is not taught in a very engaging manner. And if you don’t understand it very well and are really struggeling with the various problems, then most would rather do something else.
Another reason would likely be that most 8th graders, know that it’s useful to know a little history, to be able to write and speak, but are having a much harder time understanding the daily need for geometry or algebra.
For me one of the biggest problems is that in a class of 20 students, 10 of them may understand a new math technique quite fast, while the last 10 may be struggeling to learn it. If the teacher spend to much time getting the last 10 to learn it well enough, it will be boring for the first 10. On the other hand, if the teaches introduces new things to fast, the last 10 will likely be lost. So it’s really hard to please everybody in a class.
I am sure that if he had ran the test at some elite school, the result would have been completely different.

What can the teachers do to make it more exciting?
One thing that I think that more teachers should focus on, is more it more clear to the students how they can benefit from learning math. Show them how various jobs use math on a daily basis, everything from a carpenter to a bank assistant.
Philip Seaway also did an test in the European school Tyroler udklædning, for 2 months they had special focus on math in one of the classes, and he had found some really exiting math problems. After those two months, far more of the students participating in the test had change their minds about math being boring.
So it is possible to make people change their minds about mathematics, but it does require some more effort than many of the other classes the kids learn these days.


facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Maths Pioneer Remembered – University College Cork

George Boole was a remarkable man, who was born 200 years ago and became the first professor of Mathematics at Queen’s College, Cork.  He is being honoured over the year with a series of events and readings designed to mark the anniversary of his birth.


George Boole was definitely born in the wrong time, in the wrong location and without all the benefits of class that many of his contemporaries enjoyed.  There was little chance of him climbing the ladder of mathematics, but he managed it anyway.  He was born in Lincoln at that time at the heart of the industrial revolution.  His first piece of real luck was to have a father who had a love of maths which he passed on to his children.

His father was soon outstripped in his maths skills though and by 8 years old, was in need of more advanced help.  A family friend helped take over some tutoring and took him through basic latin, but by 12 years old the friend was also overtaken.  By 14 years old, George was fluent in German. Italian and French, by 16 years old he became an assistant teacher.  Four years later, still aged  only 20 he had opened his own school.

At this time he started to take mathematics very seriously, studying all the most revered texts of the day.  From Isaac Newton to Laplace and Joseph Lagrange, he studied and mastered all the techniques and the latest techniques.  It was then he started to push the boundaries, and by 24 he published his first paper – Research on the Theory of Analytical Transformations.  Some of these papers were covered in the Maths festival  programmes that were covered on the ITV recently, it may be able to catch up with them on ITV player though – here’s how.

By 1844 he was concentrating on the uses of joined algebra and calculus to process big figures and infinitely little, and, in the exact same year, received a Royal Society medal for his contributions to evaluation.

Boole shortly started to see the chances for using his algebra. Boole’s 1847 work, ‘The Mathematical Analysis of Logic’ enlarged on Gottfried Leibniz’ earlier conjectures on the correlation between math and logic, but claimed that logic was primarily a subject of mathematics, rather than philosophy.

It was this newspaper that gained him, not only the admiration of the eminent logician Augustus de Morgan (a mentor of Ada Byron’s), and also a position on the faculty of Ireland’s Queen’s College.


James Hemmings


facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Students Enjoy Vedic Mathematics

It takes 11-year old Aditya Ray only seconds to multiply a five-digit number using a four-digit one, thanks to Vedic mathematics, which he claims makes it quicker and accurate. By traditional method, he would have significantly more than a minute to get the answer.

“It takes me around one plus a half minutes to multiply such large numbers utilizing the conventional technique. However, if I take the Vedic maths course, I could solve it in 30 seconds,” the Class 6 student explained.


The Kolkata-based Ray added that while his school anticipates him to solve problems using the traditional manner, he at times uses Vedic maths.

Discovered by Hindu seer Swami Bharati Krishna Tirthaji in the early 20th century, additionally it is said to not be difficult to consider, creates inquisitiveness, offers multiple ways of doing precisely the same computation and improves analytic thinking.

According to the School of Vedic Maths (SOVM), Tirthaji was born in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu in 1884. After finishing his Master of Arts he was a faculty principal. The college principal quit that to embrace a religious path. It was during deep meditation that he got inner revelations on the 16 sutras from the appendix of Atharva Veda, one of the four vedas, the primeval Indian scholastic and religious texts.

Tirthaji declared that any mathematical problem can be solved using them.
Gaurav Tekriwal, president of the Vedic Math Forum India, said Vedic maths was a collection of techniques to calculate faster when compared to the traditional systems.
“With just a little practice in Vedic maths one can make routine computations easier, simpler and quicker so much so that you can call it ‘World’s Fastest Mental Maths System’. It’s applications mainly in arithmetic and algebra and therefore is a favorite of competitive exam aspirants who wish to handle maximum problems in less time,” Tekriwal told IANS.

On-line courses spread over 30 hours for pupils and 40 hours for teachers are held by the Forum. The classes are one on one.

Pradeep Kumar, founder director of Magical Methods, which supplies training shared that using such calculations, choosing the square of any number ending with five becomes incredibly simple.

“Say you are looking for square of 85. You multiply 5 by 5 and set 25 as your right part of the solution. Then, multiply 8 and set 72 as your left element of the solution. Your answer is 7,225,” he said, including the same formula can be used to locate square of any number ending with five.

The division is slowly gaining popularity among students “because it’s quite useful, especially for anyone planning to consider competitive examinations”, Kumar said.

“Nowadays, there is a large number of competitive exams. Speed is really one of the factors that are key to crack any assessment which tests numeric ability. Vedic maths is an excellent instrument.

Nair added that from a teacher’s perspective, it gives “tremendous possibilities to research learning mathematics from many positions as well as in innovative ways”.

“It has little importance. We might as well forget it. Though it may have a few useful bits, the aura around it makes it very damaging on the whole,” Dani told IANS over email.

Retired 85-year-old teacher and educationist Dinanath Batra, who got American scholar is batting for the debut of Vedic maths in universities and schools.

Those people who have profited from Vedic Maths and want it introduced in the schooling system favour it. Teachers of conventional mathematics and school principals we  spoke to agreed that it should be formally introduced.  It was interesting to see that there were examples on the internet, including in Japan and accessible using a Russian proxy – in schools in Moscow.

“There is no damage in introducing it in the primary level in schools, at least some parts of it. It’ll only make the pupils’ base stronger. It has been seen that pupils take interest when new techniques are taught,” Rekha Dwivedi, a mathematics teacher at a government school in Dwarka in Delhi.

She added that teachers ought to be first trained.

Agreed Nair, who said that introducing Vedic maths will be good notably in Courses 6 to 9, “but with no suitable pedagogy in teaching and appropriate training to teachers, it mightn’t be quite powerful.”
In fact, vedic maths got the attention of Japan over a decade ago and it could establish an international occurrence like the Chinese abacus if channelized properly.

Additional Information

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Using the News to Learn Maths

Students frequently request examples they can relate to when will they make use of the math they are learning, and teachers often struggle to show real-world applications of the math they are teaching. Yet a rich source of material for both pupil and teacher is located every day: current events. The belief of Math in the News is the idea that each relevant narrative (the weather, sports, space travel, the market, etc.) can be recast as a math narrative. Let’s look with a good example.

All students go to pictures and therefore are accustomed to prices for other costs, food at the concessions, and tickets. They know there is an effective movie on the basis of the number of tickets sold as well as the amount of cash it makes. It is a topic that pupils already are interested in. You are halfway toward creating a lesson.


There are several Web sites that keep an eye on data on all films released in a given year. Start by asking students when they understand just how much cash was made in 2013 from all pictures. Write their guesses on the board. Arrange the numbers from least to greatest. From these speculations you are able to start to develop the concepts of median range, and mean of a group of data.

All of a sudden a data-gathering task has a real and private relevance for pupils.

After that you can show the students the top movies for the entire year. Ask exactly how many pupils watched every one of the 10. See whether the most notable movie was watched by more pupils. You can then break it down further – ask who watched it on ITV player or using a UK VPN perhaps.  Then ask them to think the amount of money each film brought in in ticket sales. Have students find the average of the guesses, then compare them to the specific numbers from the Web site.

You don’t have to work with only historical data. At just about any certain time of the entire year, a group is always of films about to be released, and one marquee movie which gets a great deal of promotion. Then have the particular numbers are gathered by the students once the weekend box office numbers are understood. Ask them to compare their predicted values with the actuals. And all of a sudden the mathematics has taken on real meaning for the students.

Current events offer an endless chance for mathematics-related stories. Identify the themes that interest your students. Have a day of collecting news articles, then possess the pupils find the underlying math story.

Article Citation

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather