Reading interesting materials


Rationale: There are many interesting materials related to mathematics on the Internet, in sharp contrast to many school libraries. Many libraries often restrict themselves to mathematics textbooks, which are often not very interesting to students, and rarely contain contemporary materials. As well as good written material, some Internet readings may have an interactive element, good illustrations, hyperlinks and so on; some also include audiovisual materials, such as video or podcasts, which of course place more demands on Internet connections, computer software and even budgets. Some materials intended for the general public are suitable for students, especially older students, and there are also good materials written expressly for students. As well as resources for projects, etc, good readings may kindle interests in mathematics that would otherwise not be sparked by more conventional school experiences. Many materials in this area can be regarded as concerned with the public understanding of mathematics or popular mathematics, and so can be enjoyed by both students and their parents, as well as mathematics teachers.


Here are some examples:





Plus is an internet magazine published five times a year which aims to introduce readers to the beauty and the practical applications of mathematics. Whether you want to know how to build a sundial, how to keep your messages safe or what shape the universe is, it is all here. Published by the Millennium Mathematics Project team at Cambridge University, each issue has typically five articles, each restricted to a few pages long, and an interview with someone who uses mathematics in their career. Previous issues are archived. A wonderful resource for students, but also for others.



Maths and Stats by Email


Maths and Stats by Email (formerly Maths by Email) is a free fortnightly newsletter produced by CSIRO in Australia. Each edition is provided by email to subscribers and contains a number of components including a feature article, a hands-on activity, a brain-teaser, some web links and news of events in the world of mathematics. Although directed at upper primary students, the newsletter contains materials of interest to older students, their parents and teachers. The link above provides subscription details, as well as a link to the current edition. Some previous materials are archived.



MAA Columns


The Mathematical Association of America publishes a number of online columns, an outstanding monthly (or thereabouts) resource. Columns are archived and can all be accessed from this page. Most likely to be of value to senior secondary students are Devlins Angle by Keith Devlin and The Mathematical Tourist by Ivars Petersen, written by two of the finest popularisers of mathematics alive today. Archives of these and other columns (including some very good discontinued ones) are available too. All readings are short, as a magazine column, and mostly accessible to a wide and educated audience.



Investigating Patterns


Jill Britton has made this website with a huge range of interesting activities and information associated with symmetry and tessellations. A wonderful site for browsing, and, although not really a site intended mainly for reading by students, there are so many interesting things here that students will find lots to read and think about (as well as to do). The site is lavishly illustrated and will help students see the connections between mathematical ideas and aesthetic ideas in powerful ways. Related sites by the same author a similar assortment for Curves and Topology and for Polyhedra.





NOVA is published by the Australian Academy of Science and the mathematics section includes some good examples of mathematical modelling of various kinds, mostly located in an Australian context. The examples usually contain some text, a glossary of terms, some activities to explore, some further reading and some useful related web links. These will give students a good sense of how mathematics is used and important in a wide variety of settings.



The Fibonacci Site


The extraordinary site created by Dr Ron Knott in the UK provides a huge amount of fascinating reading related to the Fibonacci sequence and the golden rectangle, and is regularly updated with new and surprising connections between mathematics, the natural world, the built world and aesthetics, all seen through the lens of the amazing Fibonacci sequence. Millions of visitors and a large number of international awards attest to the quality of the material, which will help students see another side of mathematics in a delightful way.




The wonderful NRICH site in the UK offers a range of materials to challenge and inspire younger pupils, including those of primary school age. The material is generally less sophisticated than that offered in the PLUS magazine, which is produced by the same group at Cambridge University. Amongst the materials are some nice enrichment articles for students, classified by stages about various aspects of mathematics.



This website allows (sophisticated) users to read about some of the mathematics behind the popular CBS television series, Numb3rs, with mathematical additions from Mathematica. This is a good, if rare, example of mathematics in the popular domain. Some of the mathematics from recent episodes is described and illustrated and can be explored using the software. (There is a link to other episodes at the top of the screen.)

Maths Careers


Although it is focussed on the UK, with different courses and nomenclature from those in Australia, this is a really nice attempt to help students at different stages see how important further study of mathematics is. The website is constructed and maintained by a consortium of professional associations, sponsored by the UK government, and gives a modern view of the place of mathematics in the world.

Engaging Maths


A good collection of modern examples of how mathematics plays a big, but frequently hidden, part in the lives of people. The chosen areas of security, communications, the environment, finance, transport, industry and health are of central importance to the modern world, and the brief descriptions of the role played by mathematics are likely to interest many students and teachers.

Mathematics Illuminated


This is a 13-part video course produced for public television in the USA, rather than reading material, and is directed at teachers and adults rather than students. However, it is a recent series that is likely to be of interest to older students and will serve the important purpose of bringing a fresh perspective on mathematics in an engaging way. The series explores major themes in the field of mathematics, from humankind's earliest study of prime numbers, to the cutting-edge mathematics used to reveal the shape of the universe. The website contains interactives and a mathematical history chart (Family Tree) as well as videos that can be watched online (or purchased), but not downloaded, as well as a range of excellent support materials, including readable text.

Mathematical Movies


This website offers a number of short mathematical film clips, highlighting some of the ways in which mathematical ideas appear in the everyday world. The material is produced (and subscriptions sold) by The Futures Channel in the USA, so there is an inevitable bias towards US contexts. However, many of the film clips are likely to be of interest to students, and there are associated activity materials provided as well for downloading. The emphasis of the movies is on connecting mathematical ideas to the real world.

Mathematical Moments


This nice series of mathematical moments is produced by the American Mathematical Society. It comprises brief snippets related to the ways in which mathematics is of everyday relevance today. The main materials comprise one-page posters (in US letter size, unfortunately) on contemporary topics, with many of these including also some supporting materials, including podcast interviews and web links in many cases. The posters can be printed for classroom display; a shorter and less technical version is available for most. The moments are sorted into categories of science, nature, technology and human culture, and some are available in languages other than English as well.

AMS Feature Columns


The American Mathematical Society hosts a monthly essay on some aspect of mathematics, with an archive of columns stretching back to the late 1990Ős. Columns vary in style and topic, although most are designed to be accessible to a wide audience, even if some of the mathematical details seem at first to be a little daunting. (As the editors note, even if you get a little bogged down, it is a good idea to look at what comes later in an article). These columns give a good sense of the myriad ways that mathematics is used these days as well as topics that mathematicians find interesting.

 Experiencing Mathematics


This is a wonderful virtual exhibit of many aspects of mathematics, sponsored by UNESCO. This site allows students (and their parents) an opportunity to experience many aspects of mathematical thinking in an interactive way. Many of the exhibits also include associated activities for printing. This is a first-class mathematical museum, for which there is a real version as well, touring internationally. (See the home page for details.) Available in four languages, one of which is English.



A lovely mathematical film that can be watched online, downloaded or purchased as an inexpensive DVD. Constructed by a French team of mathematicians and film-makers, it is available in several languages, including English. The film comprises nine chapters, dealing with various aspects of dimensions (in the spatial sense). There is a good guide available here, offering advice about ways of using the materials for teachers and others.

Mathematical Imagery


As the title suggests, many of the materials on this site, or linked to from this site, have a strong visual sense, so that a major attraction might be concerned with aesthetics. The site is maintained by the American Mathematical Society. In recent years, with the rise of computer graphics and the use of mathematics in films and other media, new mathematical ideas such as chaos and fractals have become very prominent. Many of these are visible on this site, and are of interest even if the details of the mathematics are beyond the readers, at least at first.

Powers of Ten


This website offers an opportunity to experience the effects of adding another zero to a number. Each of the successive screens shows a power of ten in a journey that goes from quarks to quasars. The entire universe is explored, from the farthest reaches of human knowledge of space into the tiniest particles in an atom. A mind-boggling experience, a version of a wonderful black and white film by Charles and Ray Eames many years ago. While it will help students make sense of scientific notation, the website offers much more than that.


Math Monday


Each Monday, there is an addition to this collection of articles about mathematics in the everyday world, written by George Hart for an online blogging magazine (Make magazine) concerned with making things. With each item short and highly visual, the collection contains many interesting elements and is sponsored by the Museum of Mathematics.



Last updated: 23 April 2015