The unexpected maths behind Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Van Gogh was able to represent fluid dynamics, scientists are only now beginning able to recognise this 125 years after he made it, whilst he was in an asylum.


Ancient Ethiopian system of multiplication

An ancient Ethiopian multiplication method for multiplication, this seems very different from the written methods most of us are taught in school, it ‘ignores some numbers and dismisses others as unlucky’ but it works perfectly. The way the Ancient Ethiopians solved multiplication sums also has relevance for the way we live today, as it is very similar to the working method used by computers.

Does maths really exist?

This video prompts me to consider about whether maths is a tangible truth or a human construct? Personally I believe there is some reality for maths as other animal species do show some awareness of mathematical concepts such size and quantity, for example when sizing up other animals for fighting or attacking prey. There are also many species that have astounding navigation skills and precision timing, beyond our own capabilities.

However animals are not interpreting or measuring these in the same way as humans, so in summary I do think maths exists, but the systems that humans use to describe, express, measure and prove maths is constructed by human culture and minds. In order to help all of us conduct practical tasks and make sense of the world around us.

For instance even though historically different cultures have used different base numbers for counting, contemporary society around the world now predominantly counts in base 10, which is also amount of fingers and thumbs we have, maybe if we had 12 fingers we would count in base 12?

Computers do not (generally) have fingers and thumbs and they count in binary code, base 2, maybe with the development of artificial intelligence they will develop a different mathematical construct from the one humans have created? (Even though computers themselves can also be described as a human construct.)

What do you think?

The Scale of The Universe

This beautifully demonstrates the range of scale from the smallest particle up to everything in the whole universe using standard form, shown in the bottom left of the frame. There is both a video and an interactive version ( both are accompanied by relaxing music.

New start at NewVIc

When I started this blog I was a teacher at Hackney Community College, which had been my work place for 12 years from 2002 to 2014. Many thanks to all the inspiring students and colleagues I worked with and learnt so much from there.

However, I have moved on during the summer holidays to a full time position at NewVIc Sixth Form College, my initial impressions are good, the staff seem very welcoming and helpful, with impressive results from last year.

At the moment I am going through initial feelings of finding my way with excitement at my new surroundings. Almost like a bewildered tourist I feel hyper stimulated by sights that are probably mundane to those around me. Such as the college’s duck pond (above), which reminds me of Monet’s paintings or the local Jubilee greenway, which offers sites of the Olympic park through a safe traffic free route, this is as probably as good as cycling can get in a busy city.

Anyhow, that means that this site is now in a transitional stage, I don’t plan to immediately delete any parts that are may still be used by former students or colleagues at HCC. It seems that I will be delivering different maths qualifications in my new role, but there will be some overlap in topics and the links between maths and different subject areas are still relevant. I am aiming to extend this part the site, with new pages coming soon for ‘Travel and Tourism’ and ‘Health and Social Care’. As some of students I’m working with are studying these subjects, and my new colleagues have already helpfully pointed out ways to contextualise numeracy in these areas.

The term starts for students start on September 1st, so once I get to know them, they can feedback on what is helpful to support their learning. I expect it to be challenging, yet rewarding. For the first time in a long time, I can understand how it feels for them to starting somewhere new.

Congratulations Maryam!

Fields Medal winner Maryam Mirzakhani

‘Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian maths professor at Stanford University in California, has been named the first female winner of the Fields Medal – often described as the Nobel prize for mathematics.

Christiane Rousseau, vice president of the International Mathematics Union, said: “It’s an extraordinary moment. Marie-Curie had Nobel prizes in physics and chemistry at the beginning of the 20th century, but in mathematics this is the first time we have a woman winning the most prestigious prize there is. This is a celebration for women.”

“I am thrilled that this day has finally come,” said Sir Tim Gowers, a Fields medallist and mathematician at Cambridge University. “Although women have contributed to mathematics at the highest level for a long time, this fact has not been visible to the general public. I hope that the existence of a female Fields medallist, who will surely be the first of many, will put to bed many myths about women and mathematics, and encourage more young women to think of mathematical research as a possible career.”