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2022/02/01

Interactive Chart: Diagram Showing the Numbers Living and Dead at the Several Ages from 20 - 40

The activity below is the last of four produced for the University of Nottingham's Florence Nightingale Comes Home project. Relatively succinctly (if morbidly) titled, Diagram Showing the Numbers Living and Dead at the Several Ages from 20 - 40 consists of three charts, each considering how many people out of a starting value of 10,000 have died by the time they reach particular ages, in a particular category. These categories are English soldiers, Englishmen, and Englishmen in healthy districts.

Nightingale's intention was for these three charts to be compared so that a story regarding poor health in the military can be presented and easily understood. This activity allows them to be compared in a way which Florence Nightingale would never have been able to achieve. The phrase "excess of deaths" was used by Nightingale in reference to these and other data sets; a phrase which is probably familiar to anybody taking an interest in discussions (and arguments) about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nightingale is known very well as "the Lady with the Lamp," but her contributions to mathematics are something that many people are unfortunately unaware of. She changed the face of (and attitudes towards) data visualisation in the UK, using easily understood visuals to tell the stories embedded in data that was otherwise unreadable to non-mathematicians, including politicians and royalty.

You can find the full collection of classroom resources for the Florence Nightingale at Home project at the link below:

Nightingale Classroom Resources

Want to learn more about data visualisation in statistics? Try this free course from Alison.

Interactive Chart: Diagrams Constructed on the Data Furnished by the Quarter Master General's Plans for Encampment

The activity below is the third of four produced for the University of Nottingham's Florence Nightingale Comes Home project. Less unwieldy than some of her other titles, Diagrams Constructed on the Data Furnished by the Quarter Master General's Plans for Encampment compares the population density of planned military encampments with those experienced in London.

There are two slides in the activity above: the first provides the data that Florence Nightingale was provided with, and an encouragement to think about how you might present this, either to understand it better yourself or to make a point to someone else. The second slide shows what she actually did with the data. How does it compare with what you thought on the first slide? Does it help you to understand the information better? What point do you think she was trying to make by choosing to represent it in this way?

Nightingale is known very well as "the Lady with the Lamp," but her contributions to mathematics are something that many people are unfortunately unaware of. She changed the face of (and attitudes towards) data visualisation in the UK, using easily understood visuals to tell the stories embedded in data that was otherwise unreadable to non-mathematicians, including politicians and royalty.

You can find the full collection of classroom resources for the Florence Nightingale at Home project at the link below:

Nightingale Classroom Resources

Want to learn more about data visualisation in statistics? Try this free course from Alison.

Interactive Chart: Diagram Representing the Mortality in the Hospitals at Scutari and Kulali, from Oct 1st 1854 to Sept 20th 1855

The activity below is the second of four produced for the University of Nottingham's Florence Nightingale Comes Home project. With another mouthful of a title, Diagram Representing the Mortality in the Hospitals at Scutari and Kulali, from Oct 1st 1854 to Sept 20th 1855 looks at death rates in Crimean military hospitals, comparing them to annual average death rates in London military hospitals for the same period.

This is a Polar Area Chart, which isn't something that comes up a lot in school maths classrooms, but there are some interesting comparisons with Pie Charts (and even Histograms) to be noticed. There's also an opportunity for discussion on the purpose of percentages, if you look closely!

Nightingale is known very well as "the Lady with the Lamp," but her contributions to mathematics are something that many people are unfortunately unaware of. She changed the face of (and attitudes towards) data visualisation in the UK, using easily understood visuals to tell the stories embedded in data that was otherwise unreadable to non-mathematicians, including politicians and royalty.

You can find the full collection of classroom resources for the Florence Nightingale at Home project at the link below:

Nightingale Classroom Resources

Want to learn more about data visualisation in statistics? Try this free course from Alison.

Interactive Chart: Representing the Relative Mortality of the Army at Home and of the English Male Population at Corresponding Ages

The activity below is the first of four produced for the University of Nottingham's Florence Nightingale Comes Home project. This one delves into Nightingale's not-so-snappily-titled Representing the Relative Mortality of the Army at Home and of the English Male Population at Corresponding Ages chart in which she compares data regarding mortality (death rates) amongst the general (male) British population for different age groups with the same data for men in the British Army.

You can see that deaths for those in the army are considerably higher than deaths for those who are not in the army, and you'd be forgiven for thinking this might be expected until you realise that this is not during a period of war and fighting: these individuals are living in army barracks in the UK in peacetime, and Nightingale's visualisation is intended to highlight the fact that they are dying in much greater numbers than should be expected. This was just one of many charts she devised to bring the desperate need for better living conditions for soldiers of the time to the attention of people who were in a position to do something about it.

Nightingale is known very well as "the Lady with the Lamp," but her contributions to mathematics are something that many people are unfortunately unaware of. She changed the face of (and attitudes towards) data visualisation in the UK, using easily understood visuals to tell the stories embedded in data that was otherwise unreadable to non-mathematicians, including politicians and royalty.

You can find the full collection of classroom resources for the Florence Nightingale at Home project at the link below:

Nightingale Classroom Resources

Want to learn more about data visualisation in statistics? Try this free course from Alison.

2022/01/22

Buildings Based on Mathematics

All buildings, as this fascinating article from the maths careers website reminds us, are built using mathematics. There are a number of astonishing buildings around the world, however, which display some of the beauty of mathematics for all to see. The article linked to below includes, for example, this spiral tower in Denmark:

Altogether, twelve very different architectural constructions are represented in the article, in locations as far apart as China, Italy, and a tiny service station off the A1 a bit south of Doncaster.

Buildings Based on Mathematics

Want to learn more about geometry? Try this free course from Alison.

2021/12/20

Maths at the Movies: Predicting Income

In two years (so far) of pandemic responses many business in many sectors have suffered. Just one of these is the movie industry, with cinemas now trying to recoup revenue lost during long periods of closure and reduced patronage.

Hollywood Theatre (1935) Entrance by Heritage Vancouver/Patrick Gunn is licenced under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The article linked below, posted by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), briefly introduces four methods for modelling the performance of past movies at the box office with a view to predicting future income. As with most explorations of mathematical topics, the principles covered here could be applied to different situations in other industries.

Could Mathematics Be Big at the Box Office?

Want to learn more about differential equations? Try this free course from Alison.

2021/12/18

The Man Who Knew Infinity - Maths in the Movies

The Man Who Knew Infinity (DVD):
amzn.to/3mCIljh

At the time of writing The Man Who Knew Infinity is available to watch on BBC iPlayer, or it can be bought or rented via Amazon Prime Video.

The Man Who Knew Infinity is a biographical drama about real-life Indian Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, who made a number of contributions to pure mathematics during his relatively short life. The movie focuses on his work with English Mathematician G. H. Hardy at Cambridge University following a postal correspondence that convinced Hardy of Ramanujan's brilliance.

Born in 1887 into a poor, deeply religious family in what is now Tamil Nadu (then Madras), India, Ramanujan had almost no training in formal mathematics yet showed astonishing ability and interest in the subject from an early age. He suffered from various health problems throughout his life and, in common with a number of other notable mathematicians, died at a relatively early age - a fact which I don't consider to be a major spoiler.

The movie stars the always fantastic Dev Patel in the lead role, with Jeremy Irons as Hardy. Together they compellingly portray what must have been a complicated relationship given a historical backdrop that includes not just British rule in India (and associated widespread attitudes that seem abhorrent today), but also the outbreak of the First World War, all under a thick frost of academic elitism.

Early on, I noticed the "you know this guy's good at maths because he did some quick maths in his head" trope making an appearance, but fortunately such clunky exposition is rare: the only other example that springs to mind is the famous "taxicab number" anecdote that appears out of place in a way which feels like it had been forgotten and then hurriedly slotted in almost at random. These did not spoil my enjoyment of what felt like a largely sympathetic and genuine telling of Ramanujan's story.

The mathematical content is believable without rendering the experience inaccessible to non-mathematicians: there's a fair amount of background chalkboard set-dressing that isn't immediately irrelevant if you know what you're looking for; nor does it detract from events if you don't. The occasional scripted reminder that we're watching mathematicians at work manages to straddle the line between pseudo-mathematical gibberish and needlessly complicated textbook quotes quite well, with what little mathematical knowledge is required to follow the plot explained with a slight but forgivable grinding of gears.

In terms of its suitability for budding mathematicians, this an introduction to some real personalities who have contributed to the field of mathematics in relatively recent (i.e., not ancient) history - and not just Ramanujan and Hardy: there's a definite "spot the famous mathematician in the background cast" drinking game to be devised - not to mention a welcome break from the usual retelling of contemporary stories in mathematics which is often not very diverse at all. There's also a thread with genuine mathematical importance running through it: this is Hardy's dogged insistence that Ramanujan's results are not enough; that his seemingly magical plucking of answers and formulae from the air (or, as he romantically claims, finding them placed on his tongue in his sleep by his god) and committing them to paper neither constitutes true mathematical accomplishment nor demonstrates its intrinsic beauty, both of which are only achieved with rigour such that only a true, undeniable and eternal mathematical proof can provide. Hardy's initial frustration as he clashes with Ramanujan on this point will be familiar with any modern teacher of mathematics.

The Man Who Knew Infinity:
A Life of the Genius Ramanujan
(Book): amzn.to/3q8m65v

I have no idea how "true" the story is, but I will take the opportunity to state that I don't believe that a movie such as this has any responsibility to be completely accurate: the role of a biographical or historical drama (in my opinion) is not to provide me with a succession of facts and figures, but to interest me enough in the story that I want to find out the truth behind the stories. In this, for me, it succeeded.

This 2015 British movie is based on a book published in 1991, The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan, by American biographer and science writer Robert Kanigel and, now I've seen the movie I fully intend to seek out a copy of the book. I would like to hope that others who watch The Man Who Knew Infinity might feel similarly and want to delve a little deeper, whether that might be into the story of Ramanujan's life, specific aspects of his and/or Hardy's work, the historical backdrop, or some of the other personalities that we meet throughout its 108 minute running time: if so, it has done its job.

I would recommend The Man Who Knew Infinity to anybody looking for some gentle, interesting viewing rooted in the real world, regardless of their feelings towards mathematics, but especially if they are looking to expand their understanding and knowledge of key figures in its relatively contemporary history.

Have you seen The Man Who Knew Infinity? Please post your own thoughts (or a link to your own review) in the comments!


Want to learn more about algebra, the language of mathematics? Try this free course from Alison.

2021/12/14

Every GCHQ Christmas Card

For the past few years (with some gaps) GCHQ have released a very special card at Christmas. Not just a device for wishing recipients the best of the season, it includes puzzles to solve! These are usually presented as a series of brainteasers of increasing difficulty, with the early stages usually pretty accessible, and the later ones a bit more challenging.

Here are links to each one so far, with a preview of each:

2021

GCHQ's 2021 Christmas Card - Preview


2021/12/12

The Allusionist: Num8er5

The Allusionist is a podcast focusing on language, and this episode, Num8er5, is all about, well, numbers. You can listen to it in the player below, or read more information (including a link to its page at the Allusionist) underneath that.

The episode compares the development and use of numbers as expressed verbally with numeral systems for writing them down. It provides an interesting thread through aspects of history that are relevant to both language and mathematics, and touches upon number use across different societies, cultures and civilisations throughout history. Click the link below to listen to the episode on The Allusionist's website, where there is further information and links to related resources including other episodes.

The Allusionist: Num8er5

2021/12/01

Maths is Forever

One of a collection of posters produced for World Year of Mathematics 2000 and displayed on trains in the London Underground, this one focuses on the Twelve Days of Christmas, with a quick nod to proof.

This is a low-res version. Download the full-sized image at the link below:

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