Articles on Mathematics

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Social security is on a collision course with insolvency. A little bit of math could keep it safe. Shutterstock

How mathematics could help us save social security

The US Social Security system has been heading toward insolvency for decades, with the program now projected to run a 25% deficit by a little after 2030, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Despite…
China’s maths stars. How Hwee Young/EPA

How China teaches children maths so well

There has been much publicity in recent years about China and its teachers. After the most recent results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) were published in 2013, considerable…
Every living organism needs the same five basic processes – and we can now model ecosystems on them. erban/Flickr

Life boils down to five ‘rules’ … or so says the Madingley Model

It may sound overly simple, but just five processes can define us as animals: eating, metabolism, reproduction, dispersal and death. They might not seem like much, but, thanks to a mathematical model from…
Maryam Mirzakhani – the first woman to win the Fields medal – was recognised for contributions to understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces. Stanford University

Meet the winners of the Fields medal – the ‘Nobel prize of maths’

The four winners of the 2014 Fields medals – the most prestigious prizes for mathematics – were announced today, including the first female and first Latin American recipients of the 78-year-old prize…
The answer… 56. Multiplication table by extender_01/Shutterstock

What is 7x8? You’ll need confidence to answer correctly

The British Chancellor George Osborne recently refused to answer a simple times table question posed to him by seven-year-old school boy Samuel Reddings. Osborne was asked the question 7x8, but declined…
Deadmau5: probably does his sums. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Smart DJs use maths to mix the perfect beat

People are very good at moving in time to a beat. When you listen to your favourite song, you will probably find yourself nodding your head or tapping your foot along almost instinctively. And when you’re…
Could you do without? Calculator via Shutterstock

In the classrooms of Singapore, calculators are not crutches

The upcoming ban on the use of calculators in most maths exams for 11-year-olds in UK schools reminds me of a persistent concern in education: when do the tools we use to learn become crutches we can’t…
Don’t blame the timetable. non-partizan

Explainer: what is the maths behind an exam timetable?

Sweaty-palmed and reciting facts over and over in their heads, the hordes of university and school students sitting down to exams this month will have precious little time to think about how their exam…
Mastered numbers? Let’s make it harder. Arenamontanus

Explainer: what is the mastery model of teaching maths?

Ever-envious of Singapore’s much-heralded success in teaching maths, politicians are keen to see its methodology arriving in UK classrooms. Education minister Elizabeth Truss explained some of the background…
Maths can help in the hunt for MH370. EPA/Australian Department of Defence

How statistics can help in the mission to find MH370

That the Malaysian government, with the help of the UK’s INMARSAT, was able to dramatically narrow down the search area for flight MH370, made it seem much more likely that the wreckage of the plane might…
Let’s do the 23 times table. Michael Reynolds/EPA

Explainer: what makes Chinese maths lessons so good?

Chinese students begin learning their maths facts at a very early age: maths textbooks begin with multiplication in the first semester of second grade, when children are seven years old. In order to understand…
Let’s paint a picture of ‘pi’. jakedobkin/Flickr (cropped)

We still can’t get enough pi … but why?

The number pi (π = 3.14159265358979323846…), unique among the pantheon of mathematical constants, captures the fascination of the public and professional mathematicians. Three years ago one of the authors…

Hand gestures help kids learn maths

Using hand gestures may help children learn mathematics better, according to a recent study. Researchers, led by Miriam A…
Once you get a taste, it’s hard to stop playing Candy Crush … but why? emi iemei/Flickr

Totally addicted to apps: difficulty makes Candy Crush so sweet

It’s been said that in a city, you’re never more than two metres away from a rat. But it seems more likely that you’re never more than two metres from someone playing the puzzle game Candy Crush Saga…
Mathematics is everywhere, from national security and genetics to public transport scheduling. Bonita Club/Flickr (cropped)

Optimising the future with mathematics

AUSTRALIA 2025: How will science address the challenges of the future? In collaboration with Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb, we’re asking how each science discipline will contribute to Australia…

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