Monday, 15 December 2008

Ep 93: Communicating Mathematics with the Masses

Some people find mathematics perplexing, whilst others find it beautiful. This week on the podcast, I spoke to two young men professionally employed to communicate mathematics to school-children around the country. Both these guys have a long history in science communication - I got to be good friends with them back in my science circus days.

Jamos McAlester travels Australia with Tenix Questacon Maths Squad, which is an outreach program of Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre. The Maths Squad aims to inspire students and teachers about maths, and show how science and technology, and in particular maths, play an important role in our everyday lives. The Maths Squad also offers professional development workshops for teachers. Initially started in 1976, it has now visited thousands of towns across Australia, and there aren't too many places in Australia that Jamos hasn't been. The program makes almost 500 puzzle-based activities accessible to students and aims to highlight the broad and narrative nature of maths and its essential and pervasive range of applications. Jamos has a particular love of maths and thinks that people often find maths boring because it is taught out of context:

"calculations are the spelling of maths, not the story."

Marcus Finlay is a proactive, scientifically inclined, primary school teacher from Melbourne. As opposed to most teachers, Marcus inspires his students about science and maths rather than running away from the topics, and lists his class's attempts to build model tsunamis in the classroom as his science highlight of 2008. Back in 2001, Marcus and I wrote The Marco Show about a couple of wizards who sung songs and turned themselves in dogs - you can read about this ridiculous show on Mr Science from 2006.

I spoke to Marcus and Jamos from The Mathematical Association of Victoria's annual conference, both were giving key-note addresses on the communication of mathematics.

Listen to his podcast here:

And remember to let us know your science highlight from 2008. You will go into the running for some sciencey prizes and we'll take a look at your highlights in a podcast episode in early 2009. See the form here.

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