Learning maths has never been easier!

Maths Week has contributed greatly to raising the level of appreciation of mathematics and enhancing public understanding of its importance

Eoin Gill and Sheila Donegan from Maths Week are pictured with Jadine Rock of Rutland National School in Gloucester Place, Dublin 1, at the launch of Maths Week Ireland - the world’s largest festival of maths and numeracy.  Photograph: Shane O’Neill

Eoin Gill and Sheila Donegan from Maths Week are pictured with Jadine Rock of Rutland National School in Gloucester Place, Dublin 1, at the launch of Maths Week Ireland - the world’s largest festival of maths and numeracy. Photograph: Shane O’Neill

 

Maths is hard: many people find it inscrutable and have negative attitudes towards maths. They may have bad memories of school maths or have been told they lack mathematical talents. This is unfortunate: we all have the capacity to apply reasoning and logic and we can all do maths. Given the vital role mathematics plays in modern society, there is an urgent need to help young people to become more numerate and comfortable with mathematics. With a wealth of online resources, learning maths has never been easier.

We can all think mathematically, even if we are not aware of it. We use simple arithmetic every day when we buy a bus ticket or a cappuccino, but we also do more high-level mathematical reasoning all the time, unaware of the sophistication of our thinking. We solve optimisation problems when we find the best bargain, the fastest route to our destination or the cheapest way to finish the job. Maximising, minimising and optimising are inherently mathematical operations, and we solve them almost without thinking.

Maths Week Ireland

The 12th annual Maths Week is under way throughout the country and will continue until Sunday. Maths Week was started in 2006, the brainchild of Eoin Gill of Waterford IT. It has grown rapidly to become the largest and most successful event of its kind in the world. The key message of Maths Week is that maths is interesting and rewarding and can be great fun. All the universities and technological institutes in Ireland, north and south, are partners, as well as several learned bodies, research institutes, museums and government agencies. In recent years, over 250,000 people have taken part annually in mathematical activities during the week.

Maths Week is a resounding success. It has contributed greatly to raising the level of appreciation of mathematics and enhancing public understanding of its importance. It gives us a glimpse of the wonders of maths, the enormous intellectual wealth of the subject and the rich combination of utility and beauty. It is certain to have substantial medium to long-term benefits for Ireland.

Recreational Maths

Much of the attention during Maths Week is on recreational mathematics, which focuses on insight, imagination and beauty. Many people derive great enjoyment from recreational maths. They learn about the history of mathematics, its role in art, music and literature and its value in technology. They have great fun studying paradoxes and solving problems. A large body of mathematics outside the school curriculum is easily accessible. For young people, recreational maths has been described as a gateway to hard maths.

There is a rich variety of books on popular mathematics, written by both professionals and amateurs. There is an abundance of high-quality online courses for learning maths, one excellent website being https://mathigon.org/. One of the best online maths magazines is Plus (https://plus.maths.org/), with many articles on the practical applications of mathematics. Plus will open your eyes to the wide range of uses of maths in the real world.

Peter Lynch is emeritus professor at UCD school of mathematics & statistics – He blogs atthatsmaths.com