Maths Week Ireland Newsletter April 2016

Maths Week newsletter April 2016 with Douglas Buchanan's Maths Beyond the Textbook

We are planning for Maths Week 2016. If you have any suggestions/ comments about how we can make it better or what you would like to see or engage with, please send us a note at We need your input. 

Maths Week Ireland Newsletter April 2016

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In this issue:
(click on item or scroll down to read)

             Maths Week Ireland JOB
             FILM The Man Who Knew Infinity
             Maths Awareness Month
             Pi Day,  Square Root Day – What Next?
             SFI Funding

Coming events:
               ISTA This weekend – Meet us
               Irish Maths Society 40th Anniversary
               Engineers Ireland Conference
               Maths Counts - Project Maths Conference 
               SciFest - Northwest still open for entries 
               Sentinus and Big Bang Northern Ireland
               Robert Boyle Summer School - Programme
                                             and more..



Maths Week Ireland recruiting a Programme Manager

We are delighted to announce that we have received funding to employ a (long needed) Programme Manager for Maths Week. We are seeking a talented person with proven ability and this is reflected in the salary scale of €35 – 45,000 and it is a 12 month appointment. The programme manager will help make Maths Week bigger and better particularly in the development of greater North-South cooperation. Closing date is Thursday next 14th April

Full details can be seen here  


FILM - ON RELEASE - The Man Who Knew Infinity


While mathematics doesn’t often feature in popular culture there have been a number of popular films featuring mathematicians that have caught the popular imagination. Good Will Hunting, A Beautiful Mind, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game all appealed to a general audience even if the facts were often embellished or ignored for the sake of a story. Alan Turing was certainly an amazing figure in the history of mathematics but less well known is the triumphal and tragic story of Ramanujan one of the most naturally gifted mathematicians in history. Ramanujan was a self-taught mathematician born in Madras in 1887. Ramanujan sent some results to GH Hardy who was a distinguished mathematician working at Cambridge. Fortunately for the world of mathematics Hardy recognised the possibility of genius in this unorthodox mathematics. Ramanujan came to Cambridge and …. well you should see the film!
Dev Patel plays Ramanujan and Jeremy Irons plays Hardy, Toby Jones is J E Littlewood. It’s not surprising that Stephen Fry wanted to be part of this amazing story too!
This is a great opportunity to encounter the story of Ramanujan and I’m sure that the film has embellishments and omissions. It is great nonetheless to see mathematics on the big screen and if there are flaws they will offer an irresistible challenge to maths buffs to reveal them. If you have any comments tweet them @mathsweek.
See the trailer here

Math(s) Awareness Month

April is Math Awareness Month in the US. The theme this year is “The Future of Prediction”. Maths Awareness Month has been running since 1985 and Its goal is to increase public understanding of and appreciation for mathematics. You can find useful and interesting material here -

Pi Day, Square Root Day – What Next?

In last newsletter we mentioned Pi Day which is the 14th March. It is a day of maths celebrations mostly around the topic of Pi and mainly in US where 14/3 is written 3.14!
Since then we had another one “Square Root Day” which took place last week on 4/4/16 and of course 4.4 = 16. There are 9 square root days per century but there could be 10 this century if we count last three digits of the year rather than last two giving us 10/10/100 at the end of the century. Square Root Day was conceived on 9/9/81 by Ron Gordon, a Redwood City, California high school teacher. There were 3 square root days in the noughties and we didn’t hear about them. We just heard about this one on the 4th in time to tweet it but the next one won’t be for another 9 years so we’ve plenty of time to get ready!
While these days can seem a bit silly to some (many?) they can be light-hearted ways to get people talking about maths. We obviously don’t want to be waiting 9 years for this so are there any other fun “maths days” that you can find coming up sooner, perhaps this year?

If you email suggestions to we'll try to include them if future newsletters and of course credit you.

SFI Funding

SFI under their Discover Programme funds STEM outreach. There is a call imminent keep an eye on their website

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Coming Events:
ISTA This weekend – Meet us in Limerick

We will be in Limerick this weekend at the ISTA Irish Science Teachers Conference to talk to teachers about Maths Week. If you’re going to be there pop over and say hello. More info here

There is a great programme including-
Educating the innovators of the 21st century, Eric Mazur, Harvard University
Plenary session: Wrapping light around a hair also with Eric Mazur

Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University and Area Dean of Applied Physics. He supervises one of the largest research groups in the Physics Department at Harvard University. Eric has been named the first winner of the Minerva Prize for Advancements in Higher Education. Specifically cited was Mazur’s work to develop “Peer Instruction, an innovative teaching method that incorporates interactive pedagogy into the classroom and has been recognized worldwide for driving dramatic improvements in student learning outcomes.”

To Catch a Comet! - Mark McCaughrean European Space Agency will talk about the amazing European Space Agency's Rosetta mission which rendezvoused with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and deployed a lander, Philae, to its surface.

The nature of Science – Professor Sibel Erduran , EpiStem - University of Limerick

The talk will focus on the nature of science (NOS) and its implications for science teaching and learning at secondary level. NOS is a relatively new component of the Irish Junior Cycle Science Syllabus although as a topic, The talk will provide recommendations for bringing authenticity to NOS in school science by taking a holistic approach to how science is presented to students so that students gain understanding of science in its broadest sense, including its aims, values, methods, knowledge, practices and social context.


Science on Stage

This ever popular session will be a big draw for teachers: easy to develop resources that can have huge impact in the classroom. The science on stage team (including Institute of Physics Paul Nugent, David Keenahan and Eilish McLoughlin ) will be at ISTA again demonstrating  their wonderful displays. Paul has been to the forefront in developing Maths in the City with Maths Week Ireland.

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Irish Maths Society 40th Anniversary Meeting
Congratulations to the Irish Maths Society who are 40 years old this month. 

The annual meeting of the Irish Mathematical Society takes place on April 15-16, 2016, School of Mathematics, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin. More info here

This year, the meeting celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Society; the meeting where the constitution of the Society was accepted took place at TCD on 14 April 1976. The meeting is organised by Vladimir Dotsenko and Richard Timoney.
All lectures will take place in Maxwell lecture theatre, Hamilton Building (see the interactive map Titles of the talks are below, all abstracts are available in PDF format via
Invited speakers
David Conlon (Oxford), Graham Ellis (NUIG), Stephen Gardiner (UCD), Derek Kitson (Lancaster), Anca Mustata (UCC), Andrea Nicoara (TCD), Ann O'Shea (NUIM), Rachel Quinlan (NUIG), Stuart White (Glasgow).  

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Engineers Ireland Conference
The annual Engineers Ireland Conference will take place on 15th April in Kilkenny. The one day conference theme is “Engineering Long Term Growth”. As the Irish economy accelerates the country’s industry, especially the indigenous SME sector, will grow in confidence. What does the future hold? Where should we focus our talents and investment?

President Michael D Higgins and Brian Cody will lead the line-up of international and national speakers from IDA Ireland, Global Resource Security & Resilience Initiative, University of Toronto, EPA.
More info here

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Maths Counts

We have been flagging Maths Counts in the last few newsletters and it’s happening Fri 22nd / Sat 23rd April.
More about Maths Counts here

The Keynote Speaker at this year’s Project Maths conference is mathematics educator Dr. Akihiko Takahashi He is an Associate Professor of mathematics education at De Paul University in the United States where he lectures in mathematics teaching and learning, and mathematics for prospective teachers and practicing teachers. He was a teacher in Japan before becoming an educator of mathematics teachers. During his teaching career, he was nationally active in mathematics lesson study in Japan. Registration closed on the 23rd March but you can find out more about Dr. Akihiko’s research on the following websites:

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SciFest @ College – entries still open in Northwest.

The month sees the beginning of the Regional Scifest events happening at 16 regional locations across the island from 21st April to 27th May. There is still time for schools in the Northwest as SciFest@NorthWest in St Mary's College, Derry / Londonderry is accepting entries up to Friday 29 April 2016. More info here

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Irish Junior Mathematics Competition 2016

The Junior Maths Competition is held for 1st Year Students since 1994. It consists of a school round where multiple choice brain teasers are answered within a 40 minute period. Congratulations to all first round winners and best of luck in the finals which will be in April/ May
See Here for details
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Tech Week will take place 24th - 30th April

Tech Week is coming around again  check out activities and resources here

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TechConnect Live

Billed as “Irelands largest technology conference” TechConnect Live takes in May in the RDS, Dublin.

Over 200 powerful talks from leading global and Irish investors, technology companies and corporations, as well as start up pitches and networking opportunities are tied together by 150 exhibitor pavilions and more than 20 conferences on Fintech, Healthtech, Startups, Investment & Funding, Data, Cloud Computing, Content, Mobile, Cleantech, Marketing, Enterprise Technology, IT, Gaming, Factory Technology, Internet, Careers, IOT, Sports Technology, Distributive technologies ... and much more.

The free to attend event is being held on May 25th 2016 in the RDS, Dublin. The organisers say “ If you or your network would like to attend you simply need to register online and there will be a delegate badge waiting for you.”

Check it out here

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Sentinus Young Innovators and Big Bang Northern Ireland:
Years 4-7 and 8-14

Sentinus Young Innovators Award is an event showcasing innovative and exciting project work by students from schools all over Ireland. The event incorporates the Big Bang Northern Ireland with a range of shows and workshops for primary and secondary school visitors and stands from companies and higher education. Sentinus Young Innovators and Big Bang Northern Ireland will be take place on Monday 13th June 2016 at University of Ulster Jordanstown.
Check here
Sentinus also coordinates a series of Local Big Bang and othe events across Northern Ireland. There may be one coming soon to a place near you!
More info at Sentinus Here

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Robert Boyle Summer School - Programme

The 5th Robert Boyle Summer School will address the theme of “Science and Irish Identity”. Mathematics will be considered as part of Irish Science and among the speakers will be Dr David Attis (author of Mathematics and the Making of Modern Ireland)
More info here


Draft Programme:

Thursday 23rd June
Morning:       Boyle Show Eoin Gill
Evening:        Rev Samuel Haughton Prof Jim Malone
Friday 24th June
Morning:       Prof Mark Ferguson    DG Science Foundation Ireland
                        Dr. Brian Trench,          DCU Science Communication and
                                                                 President of  International Network of Science Communication
Afternoon:   The Earl of Rosse
Evening:       BBQ at Lismore Castle
                        Seisiún Ceol
Sat 25th June
Morning:        Prof Jane Ohlmeyer
                         Dr David Attis
Afternoon:    Panel Discussion
                        Poetry with Prof Iggy McGovern
Evening:       Dinner

Sunday 26th June
Morning:       Science and Irish Culture in 20th Century

Special Early Bird Rate for all talks  see here

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7ECM European Congress of Mathematics  will take place in Berlin July 18 - 22nd.

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See here for details of this quadrennial event


ICME13 International Congress on Mathematics Education will take place in Hamburg 24th - 31st July.
This conference will bring thousands together to cover all aspects of maths education.See herefor conference website
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DCBEAGLE Challenges
~ Douglas Buchanan ~

At a recent maths challenge two teachers were talking and one sounded quite frustrated because many of his senior class could not understand new algebraic concepts. When questioned I discovered it was pure rote learning and very little mathematical understanding through practical or real-life activity. I found the article below which once again gives good ideas and / or reflection on the teaching of maths:

Ten top issues in Math Education

The DeMorgan Forum ( ) has paraphrased educationalist, Sue Van Hattum’s paper on maths teaching and these are her top ten issues:

"10. Textbooks are trouble.
The one doing the work is the one doing the learning. (Is it the text and the teacher, or is it the student?) A few years back I read Textbook Free: Kicking the Habit, an article by Chris Shore on getting away from using a textbook (unfortunately no longer available online). I was inspired to take charge of my teaching in a way I really hadn’t before. Now I decide how to organize the course. I still use the textbook for its homework repositories, but I decide on my units and use the text as a resource

9. Earlier is not better.
The schools are pushing academics earlier and earlier. That’s not a good idea. If young people learn to read when they’re ready for it, they enjoy reading. They read more and more; they get better and better at it; reading serves them well.

8. Real mathematicians ask why and what if…
If you’re trying to memorize it, you’re probably being pushed to learn something that hasn’t built up meaning for you. Yes, eventually you want to have the times tables memorized, just like you want to know words by sight. But the path there can be full of delicious entertainment. Learn your multiplications as a meditation, as part of the games you play, …

7. Math itself is the authority – not the curriculum, not the teacher, not the standards committee.
You can’t want students to do it the way you do. You have to be fearless, and you need to see the connections.

6. Math is not arithmetic, although arithmetic is a part of it
Little kids can learn about infinity, geometry, probability, patterns, symmetry, tiling, map colourings, tangrams, … And they can do arithmetic in another base to play games with the meaning of place value.

5. Math is not facts (times tables) and procedures (long division), although those are a part of it; more deeply, math is about concepts, connections, patterns. It can be a game, a language, an art form. Everything is connected, often in surprising and beautiful ways.
U.S. classrooms are way too focused on procedure in math. It’s hard for any one teacher to break away from that, because the students come to expect it, and are likely to rebel if asked to really think. “ Oh dear, a universal problem, I believe” - DCB

4. Students are willing to do the deep work necessary to learn math if and only if they’re enjoying it.
Which means that grades and coercion are really destructive. Maybe more so than in any other subject. People need to feel safe to take the risks that really learning math requires. I’m not sure if this is true in other cultures. Students in Japan seem to be very stressed from many accounts I read; they also do some great problem-solving lessons. (Perhaps they feel stressed but safe. Are they enjoying it?)

3. Games are to math as picture books are to reading – a delightful starting point.
Let the kids play games (or make up their own games) instead of “doing math”, and they might learn more math. Denise’s game that’s worth 1000 worksheets (addition war and its variations) is one place to start. And Pam Sorooshian has this to say about dice. Learn to play games: Set, Blink, Quarto, Blokus, Chess, Nim, Connect Four… Change the rules. Decide which rules make the most interesting play. Besides games, consider puzzles, cooking, building, science, programming, art, math stories, and math history for ways to bring meaningful math into your lives. (Here’s a list of good games, puzzles, and toys.) If you play around with all those, you can have a pretty math-rich life without ever having a formal math lesson.

2. If you’re going to teach math, you need to know it deeply, and you need to keep learning.
Arithmetic is deeper than you knew. Every mathematical subject you might teach is connected to many, many others.

1. If you’re going to teach math, you need to enjoy it.
The best way to help kids learn to read is to read to them, lots of wonderful stories, so you can hook them on it. The best way to help kids learn math is to make it a game, or to make dozens of games out of it. Accessible mysteries.  Number stories. Hook them on thinking. Get them so intrigued, they’ll be willing to really sweat."

Puzzle of the month

The Quarrelsome Offspring A man married a widow, and they each already had children. Ten years later there was a pitched battle, in which the present family of twelve children were violently engaged. The mother came running to the father, crying, “Come at once! Your children and my children are fighting our children! As the parents now had each nine children of their own, how many were born during those ten years?

Website of the month

Looking for resources to enhance you lessons on space, shape and volume then Crickweb will be ideal for you –


Maths wisdom of the month


Puzzle solution

They had three children each when they married and six have subsequently been born in the last ten years.


Maths Week 2016 will take place from 15 - 23rd October 

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