Newsletter March 2016


Happy Easter!
We only have a short newsletter this month but wanted to wish you a happy Easter

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. 

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

Computing Easter
Andrew Wiles wins Abel Award
Caroline Herschal's Google Doodle
More Maths Heroes
Pi Day
Dates for Your Diary

Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.
The spring equinox occurs next weekend on Sunday / Monday. The next full moon is on the 23rd and so Easter falls on the following Sunday 27th March. Easter Sunday falls very early this year quite close to St Patrick’s Day. Indeed it was very important for St Patrick and members of the early church to be able to calculate the date of Easter. This involved lunar observations and “mathematical modelling” – forecasting when the Moon would be full in the future. So mathematics was very important in early Christian Ireland. As the Christian church in Ireland developed in relative isolation from Britain and the continent a number of different traditions evolved, including different dates for Easter. This lead to a confrontation between the “Celtic” or “Irish” church and the “Roman” church at the Synod of Whitby in 664.  This computus (calculation system) was studied by Trinity College’s Daniel McCarthy and reported in McCarthy, Daniel, "Easter Principles and a Fifth-Century Lunar Cycle used in the British Isles", Journal for the History of Astronomy, 24, 204–224 (1993).
See more here or paste link into your browser

Andrew Wiles wins the Abel Prize.
British mathematician Andrew Wiles who proved Fermat’s Last Theorem is the 2016 Abel Laureate. The Nobel Prize does not have a category for maths although mathematician John Nash (made famous in A Beautiful Mind) won the Nobel prize for economics. The Abel prize was established by the Norwegian Government in 2002 to recognise important contributions to mathematics. It is worth 6 million Norwegian Krone which is almost half a million pounds (€630,000).
Andrew Wiles proved one of the most famous theorems in history – Fermat’s Last Theorem.
The equation a2 + b2 = c2 (where a,b ,c are whole numbers) has many solutions these are known as Pythagorean triples. For example, 3, 4 & 5 (9 + 16 = 25) forms a right angled triangle . For many years mathematicians searched for solutions for higher powers such as a3 + b3 = c3 and  a4 + b4 = c4.
The general form is that equation an + bn = cn, where a,b,c,n are integers has no solutions for n>2
Nobody was able to find any so it was believed that no solution existed for powers of three or higher. In mathematics it is not good enough to believe – one needs to prove it.
Pierre de Fermat famously scribbled a margin note in a book saying he had indeed found a proof of this but that it was too big to fit in the margin. That was 1637 and for over 350 years mathematicians tried unsuccessfully to prove this. It was looking doubtful that Fermat had ever had such a proof or if he had that he was mistaken.
Andrew Wiles was the last in a long line of mathematicians to take on what was considered by many to be an impossible task. He worked in secrecy for many years and in 1993 he announced his work but an error was discovered by reviewers. The following year on the verge of giving up he had a flash of brilliance and the proof was complete after seven years of intense work. Wile’s proof ran to 150 pages so it definitely wouldn’t have fit in the margin of Fermat’s book. Apart from achieving a “Mathematical Holy Grail” Wile’s work also opened up several fruitful avenues in mathematics. Read Alex Belloes on Wiles' amazing quest here
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See more here or paste link into your browser

Try this puzzle (hint it has to do with Pythagorean Triples)
Three maths teachers are talking one day about the passage of time. The youngest declares that 10 years ago she was in secondary school. “How long since you were in school?” she asks her colleagues. “Thirty years ago I was in secondary school” replies one while the other reports “I was still in school 20 years ago”. The youngest teacher then points out that the square of her age plus the square of one of her colleague’s age is equal to the square of the eldest colleague’s age. How old is each teacher?
Answer at end
Caroline Herschal’s Google Doodle

Today Google has a doodle celebrating astronomer Caroline Herschal. It is good to have interesting women to show that not only now but through history women have been contributing to maths and science.
See more here or paste link into your browser
Maths Heroes
Alongside Caroline Herschal here are many women pioneers in science and maths in this list also from the Daily Telegraph website including Lurgan born Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Many of these use/d maths. In fact we issued a poster in 2014 celebrating Florence Nightingale's contribution to maths. 

  1. Mary Somerville (1780-1872) was named an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society alongside Herschel in 1833 for her work as a pioneering mathematician and scientist. Somerville, who lived to be 91, had a college at Oxford University named after her.
  2. Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) created what is regarded as the world's first computer program, which was in fact a method for calculating a sequence of numbers. She was the daughter of poet Lord Byron, but she never knew him.
  3. Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) is the founder of modern nursing and a pioneer of using visuals to present statistical information. Through her graphics she managed to persuade the UK Government that it needed to change.
  4. Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) was one of the biophysicists that contributed to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA. Her work helped in the discovery of the DNA double helix.
  5. Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994) is the only British woman to receive a Nobel Prize for science for her pioneering work into the structures of vitamin B12 and penicillin. She also discovered the structure of insulin.
  6. Joan Clarke (1917-1996) was the only female code-breaker to work at Bletchley Park during World War Two alongside Alan Turing. She went on to work at GCHQ.
  7. Dame Jane Goodall is the world's greatest expert on chimpanzees.
  8. Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered the first ever recording of a pulsar (rapidly rotating neutron star) when she was studying for her PhD. She was famously overlooked for a Nobel Prize for this work. Burnell became the first female president of both the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Institute of Physics, and was made a dame in 2007.
Local Heroes 

We frequently mention the work of  Irish maths exile Prof Colm Mulcahy in compiling the Archive of Irish Mathematicians and the Annals of Irish Mathematics. (It was he who researched and compiled the 2016 Calendar of Irish Mathematics). Colm has unearthed local heroes from all parts of this island that will be of interest to all and useful to teachers and lecturers.
We have been working at giving these important resources a permanent home at and hope to be going live over the Easter holidays. In the meantime you can find them here.
 Colm is a professor of mathematics at Spelman College Atlanta Georgia and well known throughout the US mathematical community for his mathematical blogs including his CardColm column for the Maths Association of America. Links to his many blogs can be found  at Colm's webpages here or paste into your browser.

Pi Day 
Pi day was celebrated on Monday. This is a US celebration of "Math". Monday was the 14/3 which is 3/14 in the US which is 3.14 the first 3 digits of pi. On pi day some people like to recite hundreds or even thousands of digits of pi. While most of us will never need to know more than 3.14 we should always have a sense of wonder at a number that never ends and yet describes the ratio of the diameter and circumference of every circle. Pi also crops up in all sorts of places and applications. Pi day is a good vehicle for promoting maths and was the top trend on twitter on Monday. Even Pizza Hut joined in with a prize of free pizza for 3.14 years. Legendary mathematician and recreational mathematician John H Conway created the puzzles for the competition. You cant win the Pizzas but you could still have a crack at the puzzles - See more here or paste link into your browser


More Dates for your Diary

Deadline 18 March for John Hooper Medal for Statistics competition.

Good luck to all that registered in time for this competition for teams of 2 to 3 students, up to 18 years old (born in 1997 and younger), from any part of the island of Ireland. The students will work as a team and investigate real questions using data. Then use their calculation and graphical skills to analyse data. They will interpret the results and present information in a poster.  Poster must be completed and submitted by 18th March.
The prizes (Medals and over €3,000 in prize money) will be awarded at a ceremony during Maths Week in October.
Recently winners from the John Hooper competition have won awards in world statistics competitions.

all information can be found Here
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Deadline 2nd April for Apps4gaps

Good luck to all that are entered in this competition to develop apps using open data source. Open to primary, post primary and higher and further education everywhere.  These apps can benefit society in such areas as transport, housing, planning, education, communications and health. In the process, participants will work as a team learn or increase their skills in computer science utilise the opportunities presented by Open Data be challenged in creating technologies such as mobile apps.

See more Here
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Scifest is a regional science competition for secondary schools with regional finals all around the island. Closing date for Scifest 2016 was last Friday, March 11th 
See here for more info. 
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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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ISTA conference: Science Education in Ireland - New Frontiers 

If you’re going to the ever-interesting ISTA conference call over to us at the Maths week stand.  

8th-10th April Limerick 
See Here for details 
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The Project Maths National Mathematics Conference 

Maths Counts 2016, will take place on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd of April. The conference will focus on teaching through problem-solving and the role of Reflections on Practice in leading professional learning in the context of professional learning communities. The aim is to bring together all teachers of mathematics from across Ireland to share their knowledge, understanding and experience of Reflections on Practice.
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Tech Week will take place 24th - 30th April
See here for details
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Robert Boyle Summer School

Lismore Co. Waterford 23 - 16 June 2016
The 5th Robert Boyle Summer School will explore the theme "Science and Irish Identity" with lectures from leading thinkers and a variety of recreational activities. Mathematics will be core to this discussion with Dr David Attis author of Mathematics and the Making of Modern Ireland. The list of speakers is available on the website - 
See here for more info about the Robert Boyle Summer School
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7ECM European Congress of Mathematics  will take place in Berlin July 18 - 22nd.
See here for details of this quadrennial event 
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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 here for conference website
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Puzzle Answer - Teachers’ Ages: 27, 36, 45


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

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