Maths in Museums: Museum of London Docklands

One of the great things about working as a consultant in the heritage sector is that it often takes me to museums, galleries and heritage sites that I might not otherwise have got around to visiting. This time it was the Museum of London Docklands, located in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The museum itself is nestled towards the North-West extent of the Isle of Dogs, which is the peninsula delineated by that famous wiggle[1] in London's section of the Thames. It played host to the West India Docks which first opened in 1802 and closed for business in 1980[2] to be redeveloped into the area now known as Canary Wharf.

Maths in Museums: Stonehenge

On Saturday morning I crested a hill on the A303 just past Amesbury and my brain yelled something that I imagine a million and more brains, over thousands of years, have yelled before mine:

"What the hell is that!?"

It did this despite having made a special trip to the area to see that which caused the outburst, and it wasn't even the first time it had done so. As old as the pyramids (or thereabouts) and at once out of place yet totally fitting, Stonehenge is a phenomenal thing to see rising out of the Wiltshire countryside - even when you're expecting it.

The grey, mottled rocks of Stonehenge echo a lighter but equally mottled grey sky and contrast with the rolling green grass that they stand magnificently upon
A photograph of Stonehenge, taken by me, but looking for all the world like a cardboard cutout on a movie set.

I love museums and heritage sites of all shapes, sizes and themes, but Stonehenge has always commanded a particular fascination. I'm neither religious nor spiritual, but visiting always feels like something of a pilgrimage. I work with museums and I'm also a maths communicator, both of which affect the way I look at cultural experiences: this post is intended to document some of the thoughts I had regarding the potential of Stonehenge's story for enriching mathematical understanding (and vice-versa).

Teachers and BIDMAS, BODMAS, PEMDAS, GEMS, etc

Here's one for you:

Do even maths teachers argue about the answer to 5 - 2 + 3?
Do even maths teachers argue about this? by T. Briggs, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

But before we get onto that, have a think about this one:

\[8 \div 2 \times (2 + 2) \]

I've had a post on this subject in mind for (quite literally) years, but it's such a contentious topic I haven't dared to commit it to HTML until I was sure it was ready. The problem is that with anything involving mathematics the conversation very quickly descends into complaining about maths teachers and listing what they're doing wrong and what they should be doing right, and how horrible and evil and lazy they all are. So:

Maths teachers are hard-working, knowledgeable gifts to society. This post is not intended in any way to be a criticism of these real-world superheroes. They are an endangered species as it is and I'm sick of seeing ill-informed vitriol directed at them online. Anybody who takes anything in this post and uses it to attack maths teachers hasn't understood it at all. The problems with mathematics in modern Western society are many and varied, and cannot be solved by maths teachers alone. Any proposed solution to these problems that begins with "maths teachers should..." is short-sighted at best.

 Now that's out of the way I can return to my theme.

Maths in the Movies: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

The 5th movie in the Indiana Jones series was released in the UK on 28th June 2023. Amongst the fans in my circle of friends it has been well-received, certainly more so than the 4th instalment (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) was. This isn't a general review[1], but a brief discussion of some of the mathematical themes that make an appearance.

A stylised depiction of Indiana Jones wearing his trademark hat, satchel and whip, trying to fend off a snake.

I'll do my best to make the following spoiler-free, but as I'm discussing things that happen in the movie I can't guarantee that I'll manage. With that in mind, if you haven't yet seen the movie the safest course of action would be to lock this post in a snake-ridden vault and grab your hat & whip and head out to the cinema before reading any further.

Do Maths Teachers Think They're Mathematicians?

A topic that pops up time and time again in an online community of maths communicators that I am a member of is who gets to call themselves a mathematician?[1] Something I've wondered for a while is how maths teachers see themselves: Do they feel comfortable referring to themselves as a "mathematician"? Do they want to be included in that set?

A maths teacher writes on a blackboard
Tokikom. Anboto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I did the only thing that can be done in such situations: I employed that most rigorous of statistical tools, the Twitter poll.

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