A model guide to maths in the wider world

22nd March 1996 at 00:00
Mathematics and IT at work Booklet, free (send 75p sae)NCET, Milburn Hill Road, Science Park, Coventry CV4 7JJ.Tel: 01203 416994

This useful book has been produced to supplement the Government's Grants for Education Support and Training programme. It is designed as an extension of the materials in the IT Maths Pack (reviewed last year) which is available from the Mathematical Association and the Association for the Teaching of Mathematics.

It has been written by members of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, and contains five chapters, composed by practising mathematicians, on the ways in which mathematical modelling is assisted by IT in industries such as oil exploration, telecommunications and insurance.

The authors give examples of the ways in which IT is currently used in their organisations and how they and their colleagues have been affected by the changes resulting from the increased power of IT.

They suggest implications for mathematics teaching, with new skills becoming more significant. Other skills, which were once very important, have become redundant through the introduction of alternative computer-based methods. Each chapter is followed by a commentary which suggests ways in which similar problems may be tackled in the classroom.

For example, a chapter about assessing the likelihood of events occurring is followed by a commentary which examines the powerful tools now available to students tackling problems in statistics. There are then two mathematical explorations of statistical situations, using a typical graphic calculator.

One of these explorations neatly illustrates the danger of an uncritical acceptance of the "answers" so rapidly supplied by such methods.

However, the examples in each chapter are nearly all at a level suitable only for A-level students, and so the usefulness of the book might seem rather limited. Nevertheless, I can recommend it to all mathematics teachers for the insight it gives into the ways in which the subject is used.

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