Irish Maths Week 2013

This week’s That’s Maths in The Irish Times ( TM028  ) is all about Maths Week, a major event in the calender of mathematics in Ireland. Over the coming weeks information and announcements about the event will appear on the website for the event (click the logo below):

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Maths Week, October 2013

With the new school year beginning, teachers are looking for opportunities to enrich the education of their pupils. Next month the eighth annual Maths Week will take place throughout Ireland. Opening with “Maths in the City” in Dublin on 12th October, it will continue until Sunday 20th with “Gathering for Gardner: Celebration of Mind”.

This latter event recognizes the marvellous work of the late Martin Gardner who, through his books and his column in the Scientific American, did more than anyone to popularise maths and enhance public awareness and understanding of it.

Maths Week was started in 2006 on the initiative of Eoin Gill of Waterford IT. It has grown with breath-taking speed to become the most successful event of its kind in the world. All the third-level educational institutes in Ireland, north and south, are partners, and Maths Week is supported by a large number of learned bodies, research institutes, museums, heritage centres and technological agencies.

Filling a “Much-needed Gap”

Thousands of teachers from almost 2000 schools registered with Maths Week last year, with participation by over 130,000 school pupils. Thousands more members of the public attended events around the island.

The background to Maths Week is the vital role that maths plays in modern life and the pressing need to help young people to become more numerate and comfortable with mathematics. We are all aware that many people find mathematics difficult and that attitudes are often negative, ranging from mild distaste to strong dislike. The central message of Maths Week is that maths is interesting and rewarding and can be great fun.

A Multitude of Events

During the week there will be a wide variety of maths events for students all ages, celebrating the role of maths in our culture and exploring the various ways that maths impacts on our lives.

Hamilton Day, which commemorates the discovery of quaternions by William Rowan Hamilton, is on the Wednesday of Maths Week, and the distinguished mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose will present the Royal Irish Academy Hamilton Lecture at TCD. The annual Hamilton Walk organised by NUI Maynooth will visit the site of Hamilton’s discovery on the same day.

Willing Volunteers

School teachers and college lecturers generously volunteer time and expertise to organise and present a wide range of events during the week. In addition, professional presenters give lectures, run workshops and manage fun events that are invariably “sell-outs”.

This year, the leading US maths popularizer, Stanford University’s Professor Keith Devlin will give a lecture. The author of the “That’s Maths” column will also give a talk, in UCD on 15 October. Book Early!

Financing

Much has been written about the crisis in mathematical education at all levels. Leaders in business and industry are sharply aware of the economic urgency of raising standards. A range of private sector companies and commercial concerns provide funding for Maths Week but most of the financial support comes from public funds both in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Let’s hope the two governments continue to recognise the high level of voluntary participation and enthusiastic involvement by lecturers and teachers, and the enormous medium to long-term benefits of Maths Week. Tax-payers’ money supporting this event is money well spent.


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