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Reading helps mathematics

Published: Nov 4, 2013 2 min read

Stephen Lyon

Mathematics Lead

National STEM Learning Centre

The Institute of Education examined the reading habits of 6,000 children. They concluded that children who read for pleasure are likely to do better in English than those who rarely read in their free time. At first glance this appeared to be a piece of research that revealed the obvious. However, the interesting point is that children who read for pleasure also perform better in mathematics than those children who do not read in their free time.

For many years I have tried to encourage students to read mathematics related books. I have given Murderous Mathematics Books as prizes in competitions, included interesting facts and puzzles in lessons bringing in the book to wave in front of the class in an attempt to confirm that I have read the book and read extracts from books such as Simon Singh’s “Fermat’s Last Theorem” when teaching proof.

I always suggest to A-level students thinking of studying a mathematics related degree at university to read around the subject. I had a list of my favourite mathematics books to suggest at parents evening. I recently came across the “iSquared” magazine. The magazine was edited by Sarah Shepherd who aimed to bring together a collection of articles that reflect the wide range of modern-day applications of mathematics. Many people are unaware that mathematics is more than just abstract concepts, inaccessible to all but those with a university education in the subject. In fact, mathematics can be appreciated by everyone.

Each magazine contains regular news items, a mathematical histories feature, puzzles, book reviews and the life of a great mathematician as well as special articles on cryptography, crowd dynamics, string theory, neuroscience, aerodynamics, mathematical finance, environmental modelling, operational research, public transportation, relativity, game theory and medical imaging, to name just a few of the topics.

To find more mathematics related ‘good reads’ see my post on the Mathematics Resources Group.