Welcome to the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) blog. The IMA is the UK's learned and professional society for mathematics and its applications. We promote mathematics research, education and careers, and the use of mathematics in business, industry and commerce. Among our activities we produce academic journals, organise conferences and engage with government.

In this blog we will publish mathematical articles and news to reflect the interests of our members who come from a multiplicity of different organisations including university academics, industrial mathematicians, financiers, school teachers, scientists, civil servants etc.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

IMA Branch Event - Derby

At the latest IMA East Midlands Branch Talk, given by Noel-Ann Bradshaw from the University of Greenwich, there was an interesting mix of people in the audience, including mathematicians and nurses. From this you might be able to work out that Noel-Ann was speaking about Florence Nightingale, with the topic being: 'using graphical statistical analysis to combat the spread of disease'.

Noel-Ann, a Council Member of the IMA, and a Council Member of the British Society for the History of Mathematics (BSHM), gave insight into the early life of Florence, looking at 'Who was she?', her home life, her character and also her education. All facts having been unearthed through doing some research. Noel-Ann cited several sources, including Mark Bostridge's biography of Florence and the BSHM article on Florence by M Eileen Magnello.

Noel-Ann went on to speak of many aspects of Florence's work and achievements. One that stuck in mind was the report to the Commission, which looked more like a novel, than a report! Intertwined with this was the discussion of Florence's famous statistics, including 'polar area diagrams'. Upon conclusion of the talk the audience asked several diverse questions, covering both mathematics and nursing!

Noel-Ann had travelled far to give this talk and I'm sure if you're interested in hearing about Florence you might be able to see the presentation elsewhere, perhaps at another IMA Branch event (like via the West Midlands Branch on 12th November!).    

Further talks are already scheduled this term in the IMA East Mildands Branch, with the next talk being: 'Some interesting observations on the early history of differential equations' by Tony Croft (Loughborough University) on 23rd May.


Monday, 11 February 2013

New prestigious mathematics scholarship to get top graduates into the classroom

An important and exciting message from David Youdan - Executive Director of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications: 

The IMA has received grant funding from the Teaching Agency to run the Mathematics Teacher Training Scholarships for ITT beginning in September 2013.  This scheme is supported by the LMS and the RSS. As part of the agreement we have been asked to promote the scheme to potential applicants as widely as possible.

150 Scholarships are available for excellent students, undertaking secondary maths teacher training in England during the 2013/14 academic year, who we believe have the potential to become inspirational teachers.

Applicants must have, or be expected to achieve, a 1st, 2.1, MSc or PHD in a subject with a strong mathematical content, have an  excellent understanding of maths at school level, and a commitment to education and teaching.  They should also be expected to demonstrate an understanding of the benefits that the study of maths will have for learners’ careers and its major importance to the UK economy. 

If successful, Scholars will be awarded £20,000, join a community of practice, have formal recognition of their abilities and teaching potential, be able to access early career support and benefit from free or reduced cost membership of, and access to selected professional bodies and their events and resources.


Please use your full networks to encourage applicants to come forward.

Thank you.

David

Friday, 16 November 2012

Lewis Carroll in Numberland

"We called him Tortoise because he taught us."

Students - please don't follow this example and call your teacher/lecturer a Tortoise - you wouldn't have gotten away with it in the 1860s and 150 years later you still won't!

However, this was but one of the lovely quotes given by Emeritus Professor Robin Wilson in his talk - "Lewis Carroll in Numberland" - to a large gathering of interested students, teachers, lectures, people from industry and many others at the University of Derby, in this, the latest event organised by the East Midlands Branch of the IMA. This particular event was also co-organised with the British Society for the History of Mathematics; Robin is currently President of the BSHM.

Robin, who has written a book of the same name, gave tremendous insight into the life and times of Charles Dodgson (who wrote under the pen-name Lewis Carroll). References that someone who has read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland may have missed were brought to light, such as who the bat referred to in the saying by The Hatter - "Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How I wonder what you're at.".

Similarly, other works by Charles were brought to life, such as the book The Dynamics of a Particle, or as it should be interpreted "The Dynamics of a Parti-cle", with significance to the 'Parti'.

Robin concluded with detail of Charles' interest in logic in his later years, with examples of extremely complex problems having been found after his death in 1898.

I'm sure Robin will be giving this talk at other events, and if possible, I suggest you make the time to get along to it.

Further talks are already scheduled for December and January, with details on the IMA East Midlands Branch events page.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Friendly, informative and entertaining: the IMA Early CareerMathematicians Autumn Conference 2012

I am chairing the next IMA Early Career Mathematicians' conference for autumn 2012 at the University of Greenwich. I am organising this with Noel-Ann Bradshaw at Greenwich and Lizzi Lake at the IMA. As this gets closer I am increasingly excited about it and we have just agreed the programme so I wanted to share that with you here.

This conference will bring together mathematicians from all walks of life for a day of entertaining and interesting mathematics. This will be the tenth in this series of conferences that I have attended (and the 17th in the series to take place) so I know they are a great opportunity for early career mathematicians and students to meet others in similar career stages. Friendships are formed and everyone has a good time. Previous conferences have been described in Mathematics Today reports as "lively and informative", "a friendly and relaxed atmosphere" and "educational, informative and entertaining".

I believe the Early Career conferences have a useful role to play. Many mathematicians find themselves as the only mathematician in their team, or at their company, and the chance to meet others in similar situations in a friendly, mathematically-themed environment can be very valuable. Another beneficiary can be students, by coming into contact with near-peers in employment (both speakers and other delegates). This might help them with a career choice or certainly can get them talking to others who have been through what they are about to go through - getting a job or further study.

The schedule of talks is given at the bottom of this blog post. You will see we start with a hands-on session of puzzles, games and recreational maths, to wake us up and get everyone talking. After lunch, we will hear from four interesting early career mathematicians talking about their work in some diverse areas of mathematics and its applications. Talks will not be maths-heavy (it is the weekend, after all!) and the conference is suitable for anyone with an interest in mathematics.

Hopefully the schedule is flexible enough that people can make it from quite far away; the conference is on a Saturday starting at 11am (and there is a reasonable hostel in Greenwich for those who need to travel the day before).

Please consider attending the conference, and please help us out by promoting it to as many people as possible.

You can register for the conference via a form, available on the IMA website

I look forward to seeing you in Greenwich!

Peter Rowlett MIMA, Conference Chair, IMA Early Career Mathematicians' Autumn Conference 2012.


IMA Early Career Mathematicians' Autumn Conference 2012

Date: Saturday 24 November 2012
Location: University of Greenwich, Old Royal Naval College, Park Row,London SE10 9LS

10:30-11:00Registration, tea and coffee
11.00-11.10Welcome, Peter Rowlett
11.10-11.30Mathematical thinking through puzzles and games, Noel-Ann Bradshaw (University of Greenwich)
11.30-13.00Maths puzzles and games session, Noel-Ann Bradshaw (University of Greenwich), Prof David Singmaster (London South Bank University, retired), Laurie Brokenshire CBE (Royal Navy, retired) and Danny Brown (Greenwich Free School)
13.00-14.00Lunch
14.00-14.30Infection control – how are mathematical models useful? Dr Deirdre Hollingsworth (Imperial College)
14.30-15.00Working as an actuary in insurance, Justin Williams (Hiscox)
15.00-15.30Break, tea and coffee
15.30-16.00Modelling in the railway and energy industries, Geoff Bunce (Matrix Control Solutions)
16.00-16.30The use of uncertainty calculations in nuclear materials accountancy and safeguards, Jacqueline Bishop (Sellafield)
16.30-16.45IMA update, Erica Tyson
16.45-17.00Early Career Mathematicians Group update, Stephen Lee

Following the conference, those who want to will enjoy an informal post-conference dinner nearby. Please say when registering if you will join us for this.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Turing centenary : exhibitions and petitions

As a mathematician and a Mancunian, I am honour-bound to think that Alan Turing is great.  But when I visited Alan Turing and Life’s Enigma at Manchester Museum, what most impressed me about the man was not that he developed the encoding scheme for one of the first programmable computers, it was that as soon as he had access to it he was doing some really clever mathematical modelling, looking for a link between reaction-diffusion equations and morphogenesis.  As someone who does mathematical modelling, with computers, for a living, I was amazed to see the birth of my profession displayed in printouts with notes scribbled on them.  The exhibition also showed Turing’s papers on the subject and the cards he got from academics around the world, requesting that he send them a copy.  I didn’t realise that’s what people did at the time.  I guess that was the best way before Turing’s ideas about machines that compute slowly revolutionised the world.
The exhibition is part of the celebrations of the centenary of Turing’s birth.  This year also sees two petitions to get him remembered, one on the ten pound note and the other on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square.
The fourth plinth idea sounds brilliant.  By putting Turing in the square with Nelson, the nation can show its gratitude for a very different type of war hero.  But the brilliant idea looks doomed to failure.  In the 1990s a commission convened by the RSA recommended that the plinth be used for the temporary display of artworks.  However, there may be a way to do something.  In 2008 Terry Smith sought to get a permanent statue of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park erected on the plinth.  This did not happen but a temporary statue was erected on the plinth in Autumn 2009 (although some people didn’t appreciate it).  Perhaps a temporary statue is all we can hope for on this occasion too, but that is worth signing the petition for.
Turing on the tenner looks a lot more hopeful.  The current Bank of England £10 note is in series E, whereas the £20 and £50 notes are in series F.  The Bank must consider a series-F tenner at some point so getting Turing on there makes sense.  But what to depict?  Behind the current image of Darwin is a depiction of the voyage of the Beagle.  While I would love morphogenesis to appear on the tenner I know what everyone will say: It must depict the cracking of the Enigma.  This may be inevitable but I have a further suggestion.  The Adam Smith £20 note shows a seemingly innocuous observation on the manufacture of pins but this telling detail can be extrapolated to explain the Wealth of Nations.  Similarly, one idea of Turing's can be extrapolated to explain many of his others, and so many aspects of the modern world, from computers to the Allied victory in World War II.  The £10 note should depict the Turing Machine!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Introducing the New Early Career Mathematicians' Committee for the Year 2012/13

We are pleased to announce that, following the recent call for nominations and elections, the new Early-Career Mathematicians (ECM) Committee for the year 2012/13 is now in place.

As we move forward with the new committee, we would like to thank our retiring committee members Ellis Cresswell, Caitlin Jones, Ravi Gajria and Millan Bel for their services to the IMA over the last year. We would like to add a special thanks to our youngest committee member, Millan, who did a sterling job in upgrading and managing our FaceBook group last year, and we wish him all the very best as he goes on to study at university this year.

We would also like to say a special thank you to all the other candidates who put themselves forward for election this year, and to all of our ECM group members who voted in the elections. It was great to have the support and engagement from the wider ECM group, and we look forward to your continuing active participation in IMA, and especially ECM group activities.

If you have any ideas about new activities we could organise, and/or if there is anything the IMA or the ECM group could do for you, please do get in touch via our dedicated e-mail address ecm@ima.org.uk, our FaceBook group or our LinkedIn group or via the IMA Twitter account. Alternatively, you can also contact any member of the new committee directly.

The new ECM Committee consists of:

Chair: Stephen Lee CMath MIMA
Vice Chair and Chair-Designate: Sharon Evans MIMA
Conference Leaders: Peter Rowlett MIMA & Lindsay-Marie Armstrong AMIMA
Conference Leader-Designate: Jacqueline Bishop AMIMA
Promotion Leader: Sara Owen AMIMA
Engagement Leader: Richard Crawford CMath MIMA
Immediate Past Chair: M Benjamin Dias CMath FIMA CSci

You can find more information on each member on the IMA website.

 

Stephen 


(NB. The majority of this text is extracted from a forthcoming article in Mathematics Today, written by Ben Dias.) 

Monday, 2 July 2012

There is some interest at the moment about the connection between maths and puzzles and games and whether they can be used to support the teaching of mathematics (MSOR, 2011).

The Mathematics department at the University of Greenwich started a Maths Arcade in September 2010. This provides an opportunity for maths students to play various strategy games, test their ability with a weekly maths puzzle competition as well as get help working through tutorial sheets. The aim of the Arcade is to stretch the most able students whilst providing somewhere for students to get support from staff and their peers and to meet informally to chat about current mathematical research.

Thanks to HE STEM funding, several more Maths Arcades are now in place at various universities around the country including Manchester, Leicester, Sheffield Hallam and Bath.

To find out more about the project and how to start your own Maths Arcade read the start-up guide that is now available on the IMA website. A booklet containing articles from each of the Maths Arcades will be published soon by MSOR and will also be available from the IMA website.

If you are interested in this topic you may want to come to the next ECM conference which is taking place on Saturday 24th November at the University of Greenwich as the morning session will have a focus on puzzles and games and how they can be used to develop strategic thinking. Also take a moment to listen to Ian Stewart talking to Peter Rowlett about this topic on episode 101 of the Math/Maths podcast (starts at about the 19th minute) .