12th March 2012

New Scientist Article about MathsWorldUK

On-line New Scientist article dated 30th Jan 2012

24th February 2012

Account of the Launch of the Museum Campaign

The following account of the museum launch is written by Dr Kit Yates :

“What happens when you put 50 mathematicians together in a room? The answer may be a little more interesting than you’d expect!

Late January saw just such a gathering of the mathematically inclined for the launch of MathsWorldUK; an ambitious campaign with the stated aim of creating the UK’s first ‘museum’ devoted entirely to mathematics. Perhaps, though, `museum’ isn’t quite the right word for the vision that the people behind MathsWorldUK have: “an exposition of mathematics”, “a maths exploratory” or even “a home for mathematics” seem to better summarise the ethos that MathsWorldUK Chairman Geoff Wain is trying to capture with this new project.

“Our aim is to inspire and engage at all levels: every member of the family, school groups, tourists, mathematics undergraduates and the curious passer-by.”

Although the MathsWorldUK project is only in its infancy it already has significant support. This is evidenced by the large number of mathematical ‘movers and shakers’ who have turned up to the launch event. The Chapters room at King’s College London, is jam-packed with a who’s who of Mathematics popularisation and education. In one corner David Singmaster is showing off a small selection of his huge collection of mathematical puzzles and games (many of which are sure to be a feature of the new museum, if only in the gift shop!) whilst in another corner self-styled stand-up mathematician Matt Parker converses with John Bibby one of the core organising committee for the MathsWorldUK project. The rest of the room is filled with coordinators of mathematical outreach and education programmes, museum curators, PhD students, research fellows, university lecturers and professors, popular science authors and TV personalities. The room is populated by people who care deeply about making mathematics accessible to everyone and are preparing to do something about it.

After half an hour of excited discussion between the great and the good of the mathematical world, proceedings are called to order by Margaret Brown (Professor of Maths Education at King’s and another key member of the organising committee). The room quietens while former Secretary of State for Education and mathematics advocate Charles Clarke appears on the big screen to state his belief in and support for the concept of a home for Mathematics in the UK.

Next up is Professor John Barrow of Cambridge University. John, a Fellow of the Royal Society, cosmologist, mathematician and populariser of science, among many other high profile positions, emphasises to the assembled audience the fact that mathematics underpins almost everything we do in the modern world. Without it we would be in the technological dark ages. It is this thesis which makes John such a firm supporter of the concept of a permanent sanctuary for mathematics. a place where everyone can visit to learn about and participate in the wonders that mathematics has to offer.

John finishes his address with an apt mathematical problem, known as the museum problem. More on the problem and its solution can be found here: http://www.mathsinthecity.com/sites/guarding-mona-lisa-art-gallery-problem.

John is followed by Geoff Wain, Chairman and one of the main driving forces of the project. Geoff briefly outlines to the assembled audience the first year’s progress on the MathsWorldUK campaign. He also includes a description of the current standing of the project including a portrayal of the spirit of the project, the wide diversity of supporters and collaborators who have so far been in touch and the status of various funding applications that have been made in order to take the project to the next stage.

Geoff also gives the avid audience a feel for what the physical realisation of the MathsWorld UK project will be like with sketches of interlinking “zones” and the types of family-friendly exhibits (interactive, historical etc) that may make up the substance of the MathsWorldUK experience.

The next event of the evening is a brain-storming session chaired in strict school-teacher-like fashion by Matt Parker. The room divides up into groups, each charged with thinking of questions they would like to put to the organising committee about the Maths World project. The aim is not to have the committee answer these questions on the spot but to generate and probe issues and ideas from a wider but still mathematically inclined audience. Among the ideas are a touring publicity/fund raising event and the, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, suggestion of a Disney sponsored “Infinity and Beyond” zone.

To finish the evening’s proceedings we have Chris Budd, Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Bath and the Royal Institution. Chris, an aficionado of public mathematics engagement, emphasises that mathematics has applications in diverse and often unexpected areas and that it is by illustrating these areas to the general public that we can truly engage with them.

“Maths has made the modern world possible. It is time that we shouted about this!”
Chris also makes the point that far from their asocial stereotype mathematicians are often amiable, sociable advocates for their, often maligned, subject. He finishes with his vision for MathsWorldUK, a place which inspires the imagination and can show the way for the future.

After Chris’s rousing call to arms the evening is officially drawn to a close by Margaret Brown, but most people stay to chat in small pockets here and there about the room. There is a buzz in the air, a spark of excitement that runs around the room, a shared feeling of optimism that tonight, in MathsWorldUK, we may have witnessed the foundation of an entity which will open the door for the general public to engage with and be engaged by mathematics; a place where new and evolving ideas can be demonstrated and shared; a place where academics, industrialists, teachers, students, policy makers and journalists can all meet for discussion and debate; a centre from which outreach activities can be co-ordinated and exhibits sent round the country; in short a home for mathematics.”

Watch Charles Clarke’s Video which was played at the launch event here

2nd February 2012

Professor Marcus du Sautoy comments on MathsWorld proposal

Comment from Professor Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science – “Mathematics is such an integral part of the modern world yet few appreciate just how much the subject is responsible for shaping our environment. A dedicated maths museum has the potential to lift the bonnet on the world around us and show people the exciting mathematics humming underneath. It is visiting a museum like this that will hopefully spark the imagination of the next generation of mathematicians. We hope many people will support our vision to create a museum that will profile the excitement and importance of the subject Gauss regarded as the Queen of the Sciences.”

26th January 2012

Launch of the Museum Campaign. Kings College, London

Fundraising campaign begins on 26th January 2012.

26th January 2012

Mathematics World UK - Press release

On Thursday 26 January 2012 former labour minister Charles Clarke will launch a fundraising campaign to set up a new mathematics museum/exploratory – Mathematics World UK. The launch at King’s College London will be attended by representatives from the mathematics community and the wider Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) community. There will also be short presentations from Professors John Barrow, FRS, University of Cambridge, Chris Budd, University of Bath and campaign organiser Geoff Wain, formerly University of Leeds.

Mathematics is key to many areas of modern life, with many activities relying on mathematics – bus, train and aircraft timetables together with hotel and car hire rates enable us to plan our travel; payments on the internet are secured by a system of coding that is mathematically based and keeps our transactions secure; insurance and risk assessment are analysed by using statistics and probability; the design and construction of buildings, machines, computers, software and all engineering activities rely critically on the use of mathematical techniques. Mathematics is truly everywhere. Despite its important place in society, the level of mathematical skills in the UK workforce has been a matter of concern for many years. As a country we seem to be unsuccessful in developing these important and useful skills.

The vision is to produce a major collection of exhibits and activities so that visitors can appreciate and experience what mathematics is and how exciting it can be, to understand the enormous diversity of the subject, to discover something of its history and the way in which the subject has been built over many years, and how important the subject is in the modern world. It will be a centre for displaying our mathematical heritage, both in the UK and worldwide, putting the abstract discoveries of mathematics in a context that enables everyone to appreciate and respect the subject. Some initial funding has been received, including a grant from the London Mathematical Society (LMS).

The main exhibits will be in themed zones with both temporary and permanent displays. There will also be a shop with books, DVDs, games and puzzles, and a lecture theatre/cinema. This new venture is intended to appeal to many different groups of people. There will be child-friendly and student-friendly activities throughout the museum alongside material to stimulate and interest parents, the general public and mathematics professionals. In particular it is intended to provide teachers with ideas and stimulation that are beneficial in the classroom.

Mathematics World UK aims to contribute to improving public appreciation and understanding of mathematics, partly through the museum, but also through acting as a base for portable exhibits, organising various outreach and internet-based activities and through stimulating the production of new materials to bring the subject closer to the public.

Geoff Wain, campaign organiser, said, 'Apart from the indispensible and indisputable usefulness of mathematics in society it is also supremely important in the history of civilisation. Mathematics as a body of knowledge, painstakingly built over millennia, ranks as one of the great creative achievements of the human race. And we hope this new initiative will capture the public imagination. When Charles Clarke was first asked to be associated with our project he declared it a fantastic idea’.