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From the Coastline Paradox to Fractals


Elias Wirth

September 17, 2018

In the year 1950, the English mathematician Lewis Fry Richardson was researching the correlation between shared border length and the probability of war among two adjacent countries.  Therefore, he wanted to know the length of the border shared between the countries of Portugal and Spain. When he looked up the official length, he noted something strange.

Numbers That Should Be Prime


Matthew Oldridge

May 29, 2018

Prime numbers are in some mathematics curricula, but usually they just appear in the context of prime factoring. Wondering if a number is prime is one of the most interesting things we can do with numbers, and our students can do it as soon as they learn about odds, evens, skipcounting, and a little bit about multiplication.

Studying Music Makes Your Brain More Efficient, Study Reveals


Maddy Shaw Roberts

May 23, 2018

The study, published in the journal Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, found that people with a musical and bilingual background activated different parts of their brain and showed less brain activity while carrying out a task than people who hadn’t had formal music training.

There’s a Mathematical Formula for Choosing the Fastest Queue


Enrico Scalas and Nicos Georgiou

May 7, 2017

The intuitive strategy seems to be to join the shortest queue. After all, a short queue could indicate it has an efficient server, and a long queue could imply it has an inexperienced server or customers who need a lot of time. But generally this isn’t true.

Is There a Link Between Music and Math?


Nadine Gaab and Jennifer Zuk

May 1, 2017

Learning to play a musical instrument relies on understanding concepts, such as fractions and ratios, that are important for mathematical achievement. But the precise relation between music and math—whether musical training promotes mathematical ability, or mathematical skill influences musical ability, or whether these skills simply develop in parallel—remains unclear....

'Granny Style' is Best Way to Take a Basketball Free Throw, Study Shows


Hannah Devlin

April 25, 2017

It might invite ridicule, but it gets results. A scientific analysis has concluded that using a “granny style” underarm technique is the optimal way to take a free throw in basketball. Adopting the unorthodox strategy could result in marginal gains for professional players, the research suggests. And, as sporting doctrine goes, marginal gains can lead to remarkable results.

Mathematics Explains How Lizards Get Their Patterns


Elena Motivans

April 17, 2017

Researchers at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics looked at how the ocellated lizard’s scales form their intricate patterns. The researchers took photos of the backs of three male lizards, from when they were 2 weeks old up to when they were 3 or 4 years old. Using the images, the researchers tracked the fate of approximately 5,000 hexagonal scales on their backs.

Momentum Isn't Magic – Vindicating the Hot Hand with the Mathematics of Streaks


Joshua Miller and Adam Sanjurjo

March 27, 2017

The hot hand makes intuitive sense. For instance, you can probably recall a situation, in sports or otherwise, in which you felt like you had momentum on your side – your body was in sync, your mind was focused and you were in a confident mood. In these moments of flow success feels inevitable, and effortless.

School Bus Routes are Expensive and Hard to Plan. We Calculated a Better Way


Ali Haghani

and Ali Shahafi

March 24, 2017

Over the past year, we have been working with the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) in Maryland to analyze its transportation system and recommend ways to improve it. We have developed a way to optimize school bus routes, thanks to new mathematical models.

The Traveling Salesman Problem Has Been Unsolved for Nearly 200 Years


Ashley Hamer

March 8, 2017

Throughout the years, great minds have come up with novel ways to solve the problem. In the early days of computer science, people figured out solutions to scenarios involving a specific number of cities, but a way to solve every traveling salesman problem with a single algorithm (that is, a single list of rules a computer can follow to find the solution) remains elusive.

How to Escape a Maze – According to Maths


Ruth Dalton and Nick Dalton

January 26, 2017

There are techniques for escaping from mazes, but first you need to be sure what kind of maze it is. Most methods work for "simple" mazes, that is, ones with no sneaky short-cuts via bridges or "passage loops" – circular paths that lead back to where they started.

Can You Solve These Brain Teasers Written by the NSA’s Top Mathematicians?


Yoni Heisler

August 22, 2016

The NSA likely houses the largest group of world-class cryptographers and mathematicians than any other place in the world. Suffice it to say, if you’re mathematically inclined and want to make it at the NSA, you don’t just need to be good at math, you need to uniquely excel at it.

Here’s What Maths Can Teach Us About How to Design the Perfect Car Park


David Percy

July 26, 2016

There can be few things as frustrating as being stuck in a car park for four hours on a scorching Sunday afternoon; yet this was the unhappy fate of shoppers at a new multi-storey grid car park at an IKEA store in Reading, UK.

Simple Set Game Proof Stuns Mathematicians


Erica Klarreich

May 31, 2016

n a series of papers posted online in recent weeks, mathematicians have solved a problem about the pattern-matching card game Set that predates the game itself. The solution, whose simplicity has stunned mathematicians, is already leading to advances in other combinatorics problems.

How Math Secretly Affects Your Life


Bill Gates

May 17, 2016

I took a lot of math classes in college. I remember Professor Shlomo Sternberg getting up on the first day of his class and telling us we weren’t going to see any numbers other than 0, 1, and 2. I had a great time in that one....

Graduate Student Finds Link Between Morning Math Classes and Increased Performance


Rena Slavin

April 28, 2016

The data showed that students who took math in the first two periods of their six-period day performed significantly better than those who took it in the last two periods. The former group’s average math GPA was 2.02, while the latter’s was 1.91.

Want to see a great U.S. city in one day? Two math majors show you how


Andrea Sachs

April 25, 2016

A pair of George Mason University students have two-squared words for you: America in a Day. Math majors Laura Maldonado, a junior, and Kathleen McLean, a senior, devised math models to help them plot day trips to cities across the country....

Widening Highways Never Fixes Traffic. but Darnit, It Did in Texas


Aarian Marshall

April 25, 2016

In a true fairy tale of a transportation project, Texas spent a measly $4.25 million widening a highway and, in defiance of conventional wisdom among transportation planners, doubled the speed of rush hour traffic on a notoriously congested highway in Dallas....

16-year-old invents new math theory — and doesn't even earn an 'A'


Benyamin Cohen

April 12, 2016

Like most discoveries, the eureka moment happened by accident. Tamar turned in her math homework and the teacher said the theory she used to solve the problem didn't actually exist. "He said if I could prove it, it could be my theory. So that's what happened," Barabi told From The Grapevine.

The IRS's Favorite Mathematical Law


Kara Kovalchik

April 14, 2015

When it comes to catching tax cheats, the IRS has more than just federal law on its side. The agency’s arsenal also includes a mathematical truth known as Benford’s law. Armed with this law, the IRS can sniff out falsified returns just by looking at the first digit of numbers on taxpayers’ forms....

What's Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse


Adam Mann

June 17, 2014

I grew up in Los Angeles, the city by the freeway by the sea. And if there’s one thing I’ve known ever since I could sit up in my car seat, it’s that you should expect to run into traffic at any point of the day. Yes, commute hours are the worst, but I’ve run into dead-stop bumper-to-bumper cars on the 405 at 2 a.m....

Looking For Real-World Math Problems? Try Google Earth!


Katrina Schwartz

September 6, 2013

Thomas Petra has taught math at every level for more than 20 years and encountered dubious students at every grade level. That’s why he developed Real World Math, a free website with lessons based on Google Earth aimed at grades 5 - 10. “I was trying to show them actual applications of the math ideas that they see in the textbook,” Petra said.

Stuck in Traffic? Maths Can Get You On Your Way


Tim Garoni

June 17, 2013

Mathematics may not be the first thing your mind turns to when you are caught in a traffic jam. Yet mathematics holds the key to understanding how traffic congestion develops, and how to prevent it. Perhaps one of the best known (and most surprising) mathematical results concerning how traffic flows around a network is Braess's paradox.

The 12 Most Controversial Facts In Mathematics


Walt Hickey

March 25, 2013

Mathematics has little surprises that are designed to test and push your mental limits. The following 12 simple math problems prove outstandingly controversial among students of math, but are nonetheless facts....

What Makes Pi So Special?


Natalie Wolchover

August 9, 2012

Defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, pi, or in symbol form, π, seems a simple enough concept. But it turns out to be an "irrational number," meaning its exact value is inherently unknowable.

The Nuts and Bolts of Writing Mathematics


Dave Richeson

September 16, 2008

This was a handout that I made for my Discrete Mathematics class.  At our college this course is the gateway to the mathematics major and is the students’ introduction to writing mathematical arguments.



Should Tipping Be Banned?


Suzie Lechtenberg

June 3, 2013

As we all know, the practice of tipping can be awkward, random, and confusing. This episode tries to offer some clarity. At its center is Cornell professor Michael Lynn, who has written 51 academic papers on tipping.

Mass Transit Hysteria


Stephen J. Dubner

November 15, 2012

New York City’s subways and buses carry roughly seven million passengers a day, which goes a long way toward explaining why New Yorkers have one of the smallest carbon footprints in the U.S.

Is America Ready for a “No-Lose Lottery”? 


Stephen J. Dubner

November 18, 2010

The Gates Foundation has just pledged $500 million to a cause that seems quite different from typical problems like disease, famine or illiteracy. That $500 million is going to help poor people learn to save money.



Would "Spot It" Make a Good Internal Assessment for IB Math?


Karie Kosh

January 18, 2019

Math teacher and enthusiast Karie Kosh has an idea for a possible internal assessment for IB Math.

Can You Solve the False Positive Riddle?


Alex Gendler

May 8, 2018

The unobtainium detector is finally ready, and it returns accurate readings 90% of the time. But can it really be trusted? Alex Gendler explains the false positive paradox.

Will Circular Runways Ever Take Off?


Dougal Shaw

March 28, 2017

Could circular runways be the future of air travel? Aviation expert Henk Hesselink of the Netherlands Aerospace Centre believes so.

A Mathematician Explains the Best Way to Cut a Bagel


Alana Kakoyiannis

February 14, 2017

We wanted to know if it was possible to use math to make a delicious, mess free bagel. So we brought in Eugenia Cheng, a mathematician and the author of "Beyond Infinity."

The Great Math Mystery


Dan McCabe

April 15, 2015

We discover math's signature in the swirl of a nautilus shell, the whirlpool of a galaxy, and the spiral in the center of a sunflower. It all leads to the ultimate riddle: Is math a human invention or the discovery of the language of the universe?

Music and Math: The Genius of Beethoven


Natalya St. Clair

September 9, 2014

How is it that Beethoven, who is celebrated as one of the most significant composers of all time, wrote many of his most beloved songs while going deaf? The answer lies in the math behind his music.

Measuring Coastline


Steve Mould

March 27, 2014

Why is it problematic to measure the length of coastline?

How Juries are Fooled by Statistics


Peter Donnelly

January 12, 2007

Oxford mathematician Peter Donnelly reveals the common mistakes humans make in interpreting statistics and the devastating impact these errors can have on the outcome of criminal trials.

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