Recently the news broke that “schoolboy ‘genius'” Shouryya Ray has solved “puzzles posed by Sir Isaac Newton that have baffled mathematicians for 350 years”. Regardless of how accurate this story is (the conclusion we came to is that he did some very impressive work but not quite what the newspapers are reporting), the kernel of the story is that Shouryya visited his local university, heard about an unsolved problem, decided to give it a go and produced some interesting research as a result that he then entered into the national science fair competition.
Today on Twitter David F Cox tweeted to say
Maybe THE lesson is to tell kids there are unsolved problems, there is room for them.
— David F Cox (@DavidFCox) May 28, 2012
This is not a million miles away from one of our projects. Some delegates at the HE Mathematics Curriculum Summit were concerned that mathematics undergraduates may not understand what it means to work as a mathematician, or understand that mathematics is an evolving, alive subject to which they could contribute. As a result we supported Tony Mann (University of Greenwich) and Chris Good (University of Birmingham) to develop resources in a project called ‘Being a Professional Mathematician’.
The project will produce interviews with research mathematicians and mathematicians in industry as well as profiles of historical mathematicians, along with worksheets and ideas for using these resources in the curriculum. These aim to counter a view of mathematics as a static, completed body of knowledge and instead encourage awareness of the process of doing mathematics.
You can find out more by reading the project listing on the National HE STEM Programme website.