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 Ôpopular
mathematicsÕ, 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's 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 by Email is a free
fortnightly newsletter produced by CSIRO in Australia, in partnership with
the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute. Each edition is provided by
email to subscribers and contains a number of components including a feature
article, a handson 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 details
and a subscription opportunity, while the current edition can be seen here. 
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 Keith DevlinÕs DevlinÕs Angle
and Ivars PetersenÕs The Mathematical Tourist,
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. 
Jill BrittonÕs website
comprises 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 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. ItÕs 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.) 
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.

A good collection of
modern examples of how mathematics plays a big, but frequently hidden, part
in peopleÕs lives. 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. 
This is a 13part 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 cuttingedge 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. 
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 Ôreal worldÕ. 
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 relevance to todayÕs
world. The main materials comprise onepage 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. 
The American
Mathematical Society hosts a monthly essay on some aspect of mathematics,
with an archive of columns stretching back to the late 1990Õs. 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. 
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 firstclass
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 filmmakers, 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. 
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 ÔreadersÕ, at least at first. 
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 Ôquarks to quasarsÕ. The entire universe is explored, from the farthest
reaches of human knowledge of space into the tiniest particles in an atom. A
mindboggling 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. 
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: 15 November 2010