Browsing category ranting

Maths: You’ve got it all wrong

A guest post, today, from someone who's almost as angry as the Mathematical Ninja. Bletchley Park's Education Officer Tom Briggs is mad as hell, and he's not going to take it any more. I'm not a maths teacher any more1 but I still find myself having those same old conversations...

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Is mathematics discovered or invented?

This is one of my least-favourite questions about maths. It's a question on the level of "Is Mo Farah the world's greatest athlete ever?" - to some people, the answer is clearly yes, and to others, just as clearly no (Bubka? Beamon? Lewis? Gebrselassie1 ?) and there's no real way

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An insight into the mathematical mind: Box-Muller transforms

While writing an obituary for George Box, I stumbled on something I thought was ingenious: a method for generating independent pairs of numbers drawn from the normal distribution. I'll concede: that's not necessarily something that makes the average reader-in-the-street stop in their tracks and say "Wow!" In honesty, it would

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The Mathematical Ninja’s Topological Takedown

"THIS." spat the Mathematical Ninja, "IS. THE. WORST. ARTICLE. I'VE. EVER. SEEN." It's a bad sign when the Mathematical Ninja starts talking in single-word sentences. I handed him an espresso. "What's wrong with it?" I asked. "I've not read it." "You don't want to!" said the Mathematical Ninja, slightly mollified.

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Another Facebook Question (Which I Only Sort Of Answer)

If you ever bother to run a search for 'basic maths' on twitter - something you may not generally do, as you're probably not the author of a book called 'Basic Maths For Dummies' - you'll find the breakdown of tweets looks something like this: 47%: Teenagers complaining that they

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Oh God, Make It Go Away.

I made the mistake of clicking on this link. So it is logical, is it not, that the Crystal Vortex is the Epi-Centre Heart of the Ascension on the 12-12-12. No, Mr Tyberonn, no it isn’t logical. It may be a masterclass in sciencey-sounding… I was about to say ‘bullshit’,

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The Age of Maths

If you study physics or astronomy, you get to learn about stuff that’s really only just been published. If you’re a biologist or a chemist, recent discoveries form a big part of your studies. Historians consider the modern era fair game, and no English Literature course would be complete without

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Five ways that maths is stoopid

I LOVE maths. I enjoy maths I can do, and I enjoy maths I can't do yet. I enjoy spotting patterns, puzzling over abstract ideas, playing about and reaching beautiful (but ultimately wrong) conclusions, and the gorgeous, exciting moment when everything suddenly falls into place. Terry Pratchett said writing was

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The making of a mathematician (Episode I)

I don't remember ever not being good at maths. My first memory of maths is asking my dad what minus three teddy bears looked like -- I must have been about four -- and him not really answering the question. In retrospect, he probably gave the same answer as I

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Five things Mo Farah can teach you about maths (and other things too)

OK, I'll admit it. I have a bit of a man-crush on Mo Farah. However, I'm going to sully the purity of my man-love for super-Mo by cashing in on his success with a list post. 1. Train hard, race easy After his victory in the Olympic 5,000 metres final,

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