> *,)b 4jbjb %@.22222222W W W ,R>2W S W W W >K22oSKKKW 22KFD,2222W KK
22AP]
i0
,KK2
Whither Mathematics in the UK
Public Understanding Activities
Chris Budd, FIMA, CMATH
University of Bath
Some general thoughts
I hope that all the readers of Maths Today will agree with me that maths is important, relevant to everyones life, powerful, beautiful and great fun. The problem is that not only does the general public not know this, but most of them are either afraid of it or think that it is irrelevant and useless. And lets face it, it really is pretty hard to convince anyone without a PhD in maths, that Besov spaces and such like are really the thing that makes the world go round. Oh how I envy the historian who can wow the public with epic tales of sex and violence. (In fact sex and violence figure in maths too, but more of that later.) However, it really matters that we make an effort to show that not only is maths important for its own right but that maths is vital to all aspects of modern technology. If we dont do this then not only will the powers that be cease to fund maths (even more than its current perilous state) and the flow of maths students will dry up as they switch to other subjects. This is no empty threat! The recent Science Diploma was originally planned without any meaningful maths content in it as there was some belief that this would put the students off. Clearly the planners had not understood the way that maths underlies nearly all of the sciences. Unfortunately us mathematicians have often been our own worst enemies, cloaking ourselves in an air of impenetrability and following the Hardy point of view that maths is best kept as useless as possible and that communicating the power of maths is a poor substitute for proving theorems. (When was the last time a maths communication expert won a Fields Medal?) But it is worth the effort. Maths really has changed the civilisation for the better in many, many ways, from Google and the Internet to mobile phones and from medical statistics to the musical scale. Just try to imagine a world without maths. What I hope to show in this article is that there has been a real upsurge of activity in the quantity and quality of promotion of maths to the public and that this is beginning to show its effects, although there is still a long way to go. And yes, even maths communicators prove theorems too!
So, whats going on?
Maths communication activities range from high profile work with the media, to writing books and articles, running web-based activities, public lectures, engaging with schools, outreach by undergraduates and science fairs. In all these activities we are trying to reach three groups; young people, the general public and those who control the purse strings. We are very fortunate to have a number of high profile mathematicians currently working with the media in general and TV/radio in particular. Of these Ian Stewart, Simon Singh and Marcus du Sautoy are doing great things at present on the TV (the recent BBC4 series by Marcus on the History of maths was a triumph and hopefully the DVD version of this will end up in many schools) and we musnt also forget the pioneering work of Christopher Zeeman and Robin Wilson. Marcus and Steve Humble (aka Dr Maths) show us all how it can be done, by writing regular columns for the newspapers, and the Maths Promotion Unit (MPU) of CMS has putting maths into the media as its business. It is hard to underestimate the impact of this media work, with its ability to reach millions, although it is a long way to go before maths is as popular in the media as cooking, gardening and even archaeology. Ian, Robin, Simon and Marcus are also known for their books and are in excellent company with David Acheson and Rob Eastaway, but I think the most popular maths author by quite a wide margin is Kjartan Poskitt. If you havent read any of his murderous maths series then do so. They are obstensively aimed at relatively young people and are full of cartoons, but every time I read them I learn something new. Certainly my son has learnt (and become very enthusiastic about maths) from devouring many of these books. In these days of the Internet, we have a very powerful tool for not only bringing maths into peoples homes but also being able to have a dialogue between them and experienced mathematicians via blog sites. The (Cambridge based) Mathematics Millennium Project (the MMP) has produced a truly wonderful set of Internet resources through the NRICH and PLUS web-sites and the STIMULUS interactive project. Do have a look at these if you have time. I have personally found the PLUS web-site to be a really fantastic way of publishing popular articles which reach a very large audience. The CMS have also set up the Maths Careers web-site, showcasing the careers available to mathematicians. I musnt also forget the very popular Cipher Challenge web-site run by the University of Southampton. Despite this activity, there is really no substitute for going into schools or engaging directly with the public. A number of mechanisms exist to link professional mathematicians to schools, of which the most prominent are the Royal Institution Mathematics Masterclasses. I am biased here, as I am the chair of maths at the Royal Institution, but the masterclasses have an enormous impact. Every week many schools in over 50 regions around the country will send young people to take part in Saturday morning masterclasses on topics as various as the maths of deep sea diving to the Fibbonacci sequence. These masterclasses are often run (and are based in) the university local to the region and (plug plug) are a really good way for university staff to engage with young people. Of course it is impossible to get to every school in the country and it is much more efficient to bring lots of schools to really good events. One way to do this are the LMS Popular Lectures, the Training Partnership Lectures and the Maths Inspiration series. The latter (of which Im proud to be a part) are run by Rob Eastaway and deliver maths lectures in a theatre setting, often with a very interactive question and answer session at the end, all hosted by a (often very glamorous) master of ceremonies. The MOTIVATE project run by the MMP uses video conferencing technology to link professional mathematicians to schools all round the world, so that your lectures can have a truly international audience without even leaving your office. Science fairs are a popular way of communicating science to the public. Examples range from the huge, such as the British Science Association annual festival and the Cheltenham festival of science, to smaller local activities such as Bath Taps Into Science and Maths in the Malls (Newcastle). I visit and take part in a lot of science fairs and it is fair to say that in general maths is under represented. Amongst the vast number of talks/shows on biology, astronomy, archaeology and psychology you may be lucky to find one talk on maths. Fortunately things are improving, and the maths section of the British Science Association has in recent years been very active in ensuring that the annual festival of the BSA has a strong maths presence. Look out for the Maths and Origami session this year. Finally, my favourite form of outreach is that which involves students in the presentations. They are the maths presenters of the future and by going into schools to enthuse young people about maths is good for them and good for the young people. Chief amongst these schemes is the Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme set up by Simon Singh, but there are similar schemes run by STEMNET and the Researchers in Residence Scheme. I even run a maths communicators training course in Bath,
What works
Most things work provided they are done with enthusiasm, commitment and appreciation of the audience. If we are excited about maths then there is every reason that the audience will be as well. But it does take time, commitment and energy and it is not always easy to convince heads of departments of the value of these activities. However, It is a constant thrill to give a public talk and be told by the audience that they didnt realise that maths could be so interesting. If only reviews of papers were as rapid!
And what doesnt
When trying to communicate maths we can often be our own worst enemies. Ive encountered three negative attitudes in the maths community. One is that the public will automatically be turned off by seeing any maths. Ive often be told the old chestnut about not having equations in a talk. I disagree. Equations are fun and well worth including, provided of course that you warn your audience in advance! The opposite problem occurs, far too many attempts to present maths to the public do simply blow them away with technicalities. I completely agree that we should always give good mathematical meat and not dilute the message, but maths is a particularly difficult subject to get right in this respect and it needs both training and practice to do well. Personally in my own talks to young people I like to grab their attention with an ideas that they can find relevant to their own lives, and then develop the maths behind it to show what else the mathematical ideas can do. As an example, the subject of mazes is full of sex, violence, murder and mystery, but the theory of mazes is also the theory behind the Internet and Google. A final problem is the rather negative attitude to maths which is pervasive throughout the media. I personally find it very sad that the media is very prepared to run serious programmes on the arts and certain areas of science, but that maths is often treated as a joke. Indeed many presenters in the media are openly hostile when they introduce maths related stories along the lines of they werent any good at maths at school and they have done OK, so why bother. Oh for the days when maths is treated with the same respect as, say, music. No quick answers here I think, other than continuing to plug the message and trying to keep calm when asked (as I was) to do tricky mental arithmetic questions on live radio. Perhaps all of these issues, and the ever increasing pressure to deliver research papers, means that there is a really very small number of active mathematicians involved in public engagement. Here we really are doing ourselves a disfavour, and I really urge more of us to get involved (both in public engagement and in proving theorems!)
So, what it the impact and where do we go from here?
I hope that I have encouraged you to not only think that a lot is happening to promote maths, but that this activity is not only well worth while but great fun. I remain convinced that we MUST promote maths not only to justify the money that is spent on us, but also to enthuse the next generation of students. (I hope that the increase in numbers doing maths A level and maths degrees is in part due to the increased work in promoting maths enrichment in schools). We also need to show everyone that not only is maths important but that it really is central to their lives. I hope that the increase of maths in the media is an indication that this is now working better, and I look forward to a future where maths is treated with the same respect in the media as all other subjects. I also look forward to a future where the numbers of mathematicians involved in public engagement is more than the current handful. Next year the IMA is running a conference on How to talk maths in public which is aimed both to share good practice and also to encourage and train the next generation of maths presenters. Please can I urge you all to come along and see if you can take on the challenge of the EMBED Equation.3 factor.
CJB 06/06/09
:Z[.D0$=$Ȱ~pbWM?2?hB`hnOsOJQJ^JhB`hnOs5OJQJ^JhnOsOJQJ^JhnOs5OJQJ^JhnOsCJOJQJ^JaJhnOsCJOJQJ^JaJ#hRhnOs5CJOJQJ^JaJhRhnOs5OJQJ^J#hB`hnOs5CJOJQJ^JaJ/hB`hnOs5CJOJQJ^J_H aJmH sH /hB`h?h5CJOJQJ^J_H aJmH sH #hB`h?h5CJOJQJ^JaJh?hCJOJQJ^JaJ:Z[s-.CD0$1$2$=$>$D&E&F&W&
$1$7$8$H$a$gdnOs
$1$7$8$H$a$gdnOs1$7$8$H$4=$E&X&.%/3333333444˺ˡˀoahghnOs5OJQJ^J h;HhnOsCJOJQJ^JaJhnOsCJOJQJ^JaJ%jh"hnOsEHOJQJU^J1jRMF
hnOsCJUV_HaJmH nH sH tH !jhvPhnOsOJQJU^JhvPhnOsOJQJ^JhB`hnOsOJQJ^JhB`hnOs5OJQJ^Jh"hnOsOJQJ^JW&X&....$/%/3333344gdnOs$a$gdnOs
$1$7$8$H$a$gdnOs
$1$7$8$H$a$gdnOs#0P/ =!"#$%ZDdB
SA?B >W78p]ID T >W78p]Ir
RxfxTn@'R*!Ԓ&uC@BrD{[uv-u*!qwO
xavGB7ɬ à E'
<=
"i<$kk<;t<@@cX1FZO9su*NPhf? S9۰wc*{Шiq'Yᪿo
r<}^jQ(6J u0Qj2DGY;IߦNn:$ԉ#Th=m{mv"X*>_&c૨pe^ OMKs%{Ҕ}%Q,JtjIѲL9p$(/&1F\t]ǳx*bnѕD3{'ɓԉXYJ/ÄZ&ӂBKB.4TTG7U!?eeGof+}3/f_5hfڮ_h"3
@avlPSY>d\pCk\2wp){š h܊
e5D~
6.
XkP`i;rڨ"%\hxy/ً͗k<
[ϼKZ_aS
"#$%&'(+./;023456789:Root Entry
F-Data
!WordDocument %@ObjectPool_1179512914FOle
CompObjNObjInfo
FMicrosoft EquationDNQEEquation.3
ex
Oh+'0 ,
LXd
p|Equation Native 41Table1SummaryInformation(DocumentSummaryInformation8
4' lapbics-1NormalChris Budd9Microsoft Word 11.5.0@n@t5;@o@J %
՜.+,0hp|
'- Title FMicrosoft Word DocumentNB6WWord.Document.8@@@NormalCJ_HaJmH sH tH DA@DDefault Paragraph FontRiRTable Normal4
l4a(k(No List.@!z z z z*
!#.:Z[s- . C D 012=>D E F W X (((($)%)-----..0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P0P=$4W&44---.:R$-
~uPϡR$k^FfG_ۙd[[CR$
>R$Yއ(2/eXfR$@u|tO`!v͡pb$`$mc?u[,5JY2$ҝ~ar|:֒R$XZ`]BaFR$=mX>Z@0(
B
S ?..3eghn.4djBN;H6C$$.}^
_
7< ;!=!$%''}((**W+\+----.:::::::::::::::::::OX@i^`OJQJo(" ^`OJQJo(" pp^p`OJQJo(" @@^@`OJQJo(" ^`OJQJo(" ^`OJQJo(" ^`OJQJo(" ^`OJQJo(" PP^P`OJQJo(" OXH[S=8 2yЮD@
rZ1D}@0/.@@UnknownGTimes New Roman5Symbol3Arial7CourierCComic Sans MS"Ahf34S& ] % %!xx2d-- 3Q(?+ lapbics-1
Chris BuddCompObjX