Can math be popular? ‘I will show you that math is life’

August 4, 2018, 7:11 pm

Can math be popular? ‘I will show you that math is life’

Four very different panelists from four different countries came together this afternoon to share ways to attract young, bright minds to the world of mathematics. ‘New avenues for raising public awareness of mathematics’, chaired by stand-up comedian and self-titled Australian ‘numeracy ambassador’ Simon Pampena, showcased several initiatives that repel any notion that math is boring.

For many, the sheer mention of math can bring back nightmarish memories of bygone school days. But these five were keen to show that math can be found in so many spectacular details of life, that any bad reputation is unfounded.

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Here are their insights:

Nikolai Andreev

“Many children separate life and math. I will show you that math is life,” the Russian panelist began, before diving into a fantastical world of real-life puzzles and interactive problem-solving. How does a train stay on the rails on a winding road? We take our winding trains and subways for granted, but because the radius of the inner wheel is shorter than that of the outer wheel on a curve, precise calculations must to done to solve this problem. The solution, Andreev shows, is a cone-shaped wheel so that the size of each wheel will increase or decrease to adjust to any given curve.

Rogério Martins

Host of the TV show ‘This is Mathematics’, Portuguese Rogério Martins said mathematics connects with practically everything. Showing a lighter, more relatable side of math, he said mathematics is part of our human heritage. Shows such as the Big Bang Theory don’t attempt to teach anything scientific but have made great progress in de-stigmatizing sciences. “It has completely changed the way that society perceives science,” he remarks with admiration, “now, it’s not bad to be a nerd.”

Mariana Pereira

The Uruguayan researcher dropped everything to go on the road for a year, with the goal of sharing her love of mathematics with people all over her country. She started the project ‘Imaginary’, an open-sourced moving museum that has been replicated all over the world. This format succeeded in reaching people in several small, rural towns. The activities are all hands-on and interactive and spread like wildfire, awakening an interest in math for several unsuspecting citizens. For Pereira, the satisfaction comes from seeing the general public embrace the subject that she loves so deeply.

Tadashi Tokieda

“I’m not a communicator and I’m not a populariser,” Tadashi Tokieda stated austerely, “I simply come across things that are not understood by science, and share them with people – things that intrigue children and scientists alike. Initial wonder is common to all of us and its what makes us human.” Tokieda studies – and sometimes invents – toys that reveal something surprising and unexpected about the role mathematics plays in our everyday lives.