A millennium in a year;Maths Year 2000

1st October 1999 at 01:00
John Bibby looks at a calendar with a difference.

A team in York has been re-writing the history of mathematics and the results are about to appear in a 16-ft classroom frieze entitled "Mathematics of the Millennium".

It takes a calendar format and includes puzzles for all tastes. Written in easy-to-read newspaper style, it brings to life a range of activities from the past 1,000 years, all of which are now encapsulated in the overall term "mathematics".

Definitions change over time, and part of the project is to answer the question "What is mathematics, and how has its meaning developed over the past 1,000 years?" The frieze includes apparently "non-mathematical" questions such as "Where do rainbows come from?" and Geoffrey Chaucer's Treatise on the astrolabe, as well as multicultural aspects including number systems from India, Chinese computational patterns, and Islamic cosmic geometry.

The project came about when I collaborated with Maths Year 2000. For many years I have produced an annual puzzle-calendar "FunMaths!" I worked with Helen Robinson, a mathematics student at York University who explains that the idea was to write a "mathematical newspaper" with one big story per century, starting with January in the year 1000: "Then February reports from 1100 and so on, jumping a century at a time. Thus November reports the year 2000, and we end with a futuristic December report about how mathematics may look 100 years from now. " Sample pages will be sent to schools at two-monthly intervals from January by Maths Year 2000, or a pack can be obtained now by sending an A4 SAE to: MatheMagic, 1 Straylands Grove, York YO31 1EB. TES readers can also obtain the whole frieze and answer booklet from the same address at the special pre-paid post-inclusive price of pound;7 for one or pound;10 for 2. (Cheques payable to "MatheMagic". Offer closes October 31, after which the price will be pound;9.50.)

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