What was the first bit of mathematics that made you realize that math is beautiful?

An interesting discussion at Stackexchange. The question is:

I’m a children’s book writer and illustrator, and I want to to create a book for young readers that exposes the beauty of Mathematics. I recently read Paul Lockhart’s essay “The Mathematician’s Lament,” and found that I, too, lament the uninspiring quality of my elementary math education.

I want to make a book that discredits the notion that math is merely a series of calculations, and inspires a sense of awe and genuine curiosity in young readers.

However, I myself am mathematically unsophisticated.

What was the first bit of mathematics that made you realize that math is beautiful?

For the purposes of this children’s book, accessible answers would be appreciated.

And here is a randomly chosen answer with other contributor’s comment:

A: I found it completely amazing that the angles in a triangle always added up to 180 degrees. No matter how you drew a triangle, you could measure the angles with a protractor and they always add up to about 180 degrees, like magic. Even more amazing when I realized it wasn’t some rule of thumb or approximation, but true in some deeper sense for the ideal, platonic triangle.


C: When I came home and told my father, he drew a triangle on the skin of an orange. All angles were 90°. I was deeply disturbed.



Alan Turing musical is a surprise success

From Richard Webb’s review in New Scientist of The Universal Machine at London’s New Diorama Theatre :

 A musical rendition of such a complex and delicate subject matter stands a high chance of going very wrong. It is to the enormous credit of the Pit theatre company that it goes mostly very right. A few unnecessarily jarring comedic interludes aside, this is an engaging, nuanced and ultimately moving piece of theatre.

Read the review.

Cryptography competition goes nationwide in honour of Alan Turing

From Manchester University Staff Net:

Schools in the Wirral, Devon and Buckinghamshire have provided the winning teams of codebreakers in this year’s Alan Turing Cryptography Competition.

Alan Turing

Launched in 2012 as part of the Alan Turing Centenary, the Cryptography Competition is now an annual event in the School of Mathematics.

The story follows the adventures of Mike and Ellie, fresh from discovering the long-lost ‘Turing Treasure’ in last year’s competition, as they get caught up in a new cryptographic adventure around The University of Manchester, involving a mysterious ancient artefact – the Egyptian Enigma! Students were required to solve six codes to complete the competition.

This year’s winning teams were:

1st place Team ‘G15’ Calday Grange Grammar School, Wirral
2nd place Team ‘Room40’ Torquay Boys’ Grammar School
3rd place Team ‘SmileyFaces:)’ Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, Marlow

Dr Charles Walkden from the School of Mathematics said: “Once again we – together with SkyScanner, the competition’s sponsor – have been delighted with the amount of excitement and enthusiasm that the competition has generated, with almost 2,000 young cryptographers from all over the UK taking part to solve some fiendishly difficult codes.

“We’ve also had people from Australia, South Africa and North America (as well as several European countries) following the competition, showing that there’s a global interest in the life of Alan Turing and his contributions to society. We’re already planning next year’s competition, starting in January 2014, which promises to be even bigger and better!”

Although the 2013 competition has now closed, you can still view the story and clues at:

Philosophy of Mathematics Education Journal no 27

The Philosophy of Mathematics Education Journal No. 27 (April 2013) is now freely available on-line. Access is via


See the title page with list of contents below

The first article is a transcript of a virtiual dialogue by avatars Postmodern Mathematics Education between Paul Ernest and Allan Tarp available at
this was screened at ICME12 in one of the discussion groups and you might be amused or interested by it.

Funding for Further Mathematics Support Programme

Reposted from EdExec:

Funding for the Further Maths Support Programme is to be expanded to provide professional development for teaching staff.

Education minister Elizabeth Truss has announced that funding for the Further Mathematics Support Programme (FMSP) is being expanded to £25m over five years.

The aim of the FMSP is to increase the number of students studying further mathematics A level. Funding is used to target schools and colleges where no students are currently taking further maths, providing support to improve and extend their mathematics provision.

Read the whole story.

Maths on Trial, by Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez



Look inside. Book description:

In the wrong hands, math can be deadly. Even the simplest numbers can become powerful forces when manipulated by politicians or the media, but in the case of the law, your liberty–and your life–can depend on the right calculation.
In “Math on Trial,” mathematicians Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez describe ten trials spanning from the nineteenth century to today, in which mathematical arguments were used–and disastrously misused–as evidence. They tell the stories of Sally Clark, who was accused of murdering her children by a doctor with a faulty sense of calculation; of nineteenth-century tycoon Hetty Green, whose dispute over her aunt’s will became a signal case in the forensic use of mathematics; and of the case of Amanda Knox, in which a judge’s misunderstanding of probability led him to discount critical evidence–which might have kept her in jail. Offering a fresh angle on cases from the nineteenth-century Dreyfus affair to the murder trial of Dutch nurse Lucia de Berk, Schneps and Colmez show how the improper application of mathematical concepts can mean the difference between walking free and life in prison.
A colorful narrative of mathematical abuse, “Math on Trial” blends courtroom drama, history, and math to show that legal expertise isn’t always enough to prove a person innocent.