MathsBombe from Manchester

 MathBombeFrom the people behind the Alan Turing Cryptography Competition

MathsBombe – the new maths-based competition aimed at A-level students (but open to all UK students in Year 13 (or equivalent) or below) – started this afternoon.   This is the sister competition to the now well-established `Alan Turing Cryptography Competition’ but aimed at an older group of students and featuring mathematical puzzles.  If you know anybody who would be interested in this then please pass this on (or if you know of any way of promoting the competition that we haven’t thought of then please let us know!). The url is:

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Modelling Camp, Edinburgh, March 21-24, 2016

On 21-24 March 2016, ICMS will host a Modelling Camp.  The 3.5 day
modelling camp has 3 main aims

  • To train students and early career mathematical science researchers to
    engage in study groups and similar activities
  • To offer broader skills training – team-working, coping outside of
    one’s comfort zone, introduction to modelling methodology, report
    writing, and enhancing communication/presentation skills
  • To learn how different branches of mathematics can be applied in
    various industrial settings.
  • The meeting will be structured to maximise time for networking and
    informal discussions.
  • This modelling camp will be held in advance of the 116th Study Group
    with Industry (ESGI), University of Durham, April 2016.

Further details, including funding options, are available on the website
Funding has been secured for a limited number of delegates so early
registration is recommended.

Basic Ratio Capacity May Serve as Building Block for Math Knowledge

Contact: Anna Mikulak
Association for Psychological Science

Understanding fractions is a critical mathematical ability, and yet it’s one that continues to confound a lot of people well into adulthood. New research finds evidence for an innate ratio processing ability that may play a role in determining our aptitude for understanding fractions and other formal mathematical concepts. Continue reading

Laurent Schwartz on learning mathematics

Laurent Schwartz, as quoted from  A Mathematician Grappling with His Century, Birkhäuser Basel, 2001, pp. 30-31. [With thanks to Jonathan Crabtree]

I was always deeply uncertain about my own intellectual capacity; I thought I was unintelligent. And it is true that I was, and still am, rather slow. I need time to seize things because I always need to understand them fully. Even when I was the first to answer the teacher’s questions, I knew it was because they happened to be questions to which I already knew the answer. But if a new question arose, usually students who weren’t as good as I was answered before me. Towards the end of eleventh grade, I secretly thought of myself as stupid. I worried about this for a long time. Not only did I believe I was stupid, but I couldn’t understand the contradiction between this stupidity and my good grades. I never talked about this to anyone, but I always felt convinced that my imposture would someday be revealed: the whole world and myself would finally see that what looked like intelligence was really just an illusion. If this ever happened, apparently no one noticed it, and I’m still just as slow. When a teacher dictated something to us, I had real trouble taking notes; it’s still difficult for me to follow a seminar.

At the end of eleventh grade, I took the measure of the situation, and came to the conclusion that rapidity doesn’t have a precise relation to intelligence. What is important is to deeply understand things and their relations to each other. This is where intelligence lies. The fact of being quick or slow isn’t really relevant. Naturally, it’s help to be quick, like it is to have a good memory. But it’s neither necessary or sufficient for intellectual success.The laurels I won in the Concourse General liberated me definitely from my anguish. I won first prize in Latin theme and first access it in Latin version; I was no longer merely a brilliant high school student, I acquired national fame. The Concourse General counted a lot in in my life, by helping me to get rid of a terrible complex. Of course, I was not instantly metamorphosed, and I’ve always had to confront the same problems; it’s just that since that day I know that these obstacles are not unsurmountable and that in spite of delicate and even painful moments,they will not block my way to accomplishment, which research represent for me. Fortunately, I had an excellent memory. For instance, in twelfth grade, in math, I believe that at the end of the year I remembered every single thing I had learned, without ever have written anything down. At that point, I knew my limits but I had a solid feeing of confidence in my possibility of success.

This type of competition is an excellent thing. Many young people feel self-doubt, for one reason or another. The refusal of any kind of comparison which reigns in our classrooms as a concession to egalitarianism, is all too often quite destructive; it prevents the young people who doubt their own capacities, and particularly those from modest backgrounds, from acquiring real confidence in themselves. But self-confidence is a condition of success. Of course, one must be modest, and every intellectual needs to recall this. I’m perfectly conscious of the immensity of my ignorance compared with what I know. It’s enough to meet other intellectuals to see that my knowledge is just a drop of water in an ocean. Every intellectual needs to be capable of considering himself relatively, and measuring the immensity of his ignorance. But he must also have confidence in himself and in his possibilities of succeeding, through the constant and tenacious search for truth.

[With thanks to Jonathan Crabtree]

MIT Primes

From Richard Rusczyk:

Over the last decade, many students have asked us how to get involved in research. To address this need, we are partnering with MIT PRIMES, which has trained many outstanding high school student researchers over the last several years. MIT PRIMES/AoPS CrowdMath will allow mathematically sophisticated high school students to collaborate on unsolved problems under the mentorship of outstanding mathematicians. CrowdMath begins with a series of Resources for students to discuss over the next couple of months. On March 1, we will release the official research problems, which will be based on material students learn while discussing the Resources.

Our goal is to discover new knowledge! Should we succeed, we’ll produce a research paper based on our collective work.

Visit the MIT PRIMES/AoPS CrowdMath pages for more details.