Sticky Post – Read this first. Categories and Links in Mathemafrica

The navigability of Mathemafrica isn’t ideal, so I have created this post which might guide you to what you are looking for. Here are a number of different categories of post which you might like to take a look at:

Always write in a comment if there is anything you would like to see us write about, or you would like to write about.…

By | January 17th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How to Fall Slower Than Gravity And Other Everyday (and Not So Everyday) Uses of Mathematics and Physical Reasoning – by Paul J. Nahin, a review

NB. I was sent this book as a review copy.

This book is without a doubt the most enjoyable, stimulating book of mathematical physics (and occasionally more pure branches of maths) puzzles that I have ever read. It’s essentially a series of cleverly, and occasionally fiendishly put-together mathematics and physics challenge questions, each of which gets you thinking in a new and fascinating way.

The level of mathematics needed is generally only up to relatively basic calculus, though there is the occasional diversion into a slightly more complex area, though anyone with basic first year university mathematics, or even a keen high school student who has done a little reading ahead, would be able to get a lot from the questions.

I found that there were a number of ways of going through the questions. Some of them are enjoyable to read, and simply ponder. For me, occasionally figuring out what should be done, without writing anything down, was enough to be pretty confident that I saw the ingenuity in the puzzle and the solution and I was happy to leave it at that.…

By | January 10th, 2019|Book reviews, Reviews, Uncategorized|1 Comment

Millions, Billions, Zillions – Defending Yourself in a World of Too Many Numbers – by Brian W. Kernighan, a review

NB. I was sent this book as a review copy.

I have to admit that I was skeptical about this book when I first saw it, and even on browsing through it became more so (read on for the but…). I count myself as a highly numerate person who has a reasonable awareness of the world of numbers around me and I thought that the book probably wouldn’t help me to navigate through the world that I already feel comfortable in.

The book is essentially a series of short chapters which discuss some of the ways that numbers are used, misused and mistakenly used in the media, from errors in units, to orders of magnitude, to the ways that graphs can misrepresent data either intentionally or unintentionally to the improbable precision so often used online and in print. Each chapter uses news headlines and quotes to highlight how such mistakes come about and the examples are extremely clear.…

By | December 13th, 2018|Book reviews, Reviews|2 Comments

The Mathematics of Secrets – by Joshua Holden, a review

NB. I was sent this book as a review copy.

This is an extremely clearly, well-written book covering a lot of ground in the mathematics of cyphers. It starts from the very basics with simple transposition cyphers and goes all the way through to elliptic cyphers, public key cryptography and quantum cryptography. Each section gives detailed examples where you can follow precisely the mathematics of what underlies the encryption. Indeed the mathematics is non-trivial in a fair number of places, but it is always explained well, and I think that anyone with a first year university level of mathematics should be able to understand the bulk of it. I think that if you were to come at this book with a high-school level of mathematics, there would be some aspects which would be pretty hard work, but with some persistence, even those would be understandable, and perhaps the breakthroughs in understanding would feel like a great (though doable) achievement for the maths enthusiast.…

By | November 20th, 2018|Book reviews, Reviews|0 Comments

1.2 Properties of Groups

Recall the definition of a group:

A set G is “upgraded” into a group if it satisfied the following axioms under one binary operation (*) :

  1. Closure: \forall x, y \in  G, x*y \in G
  2. Associativity: \forall x, y, z \in G, (x*y)*z = x*(y*z)
  3.  Identity: \exists e \in G,  \text{ called the identity element  such that } \forall x \in G, x*e = e*x = x
  4. Inverse:  \exists y \in G, \text{ called the inverse of x, with } x*y = y*x = e  \forall x \in G

An Abelian group is a group that is follows the axioms 1 – 4 with the addition of one property: 

  1. Commutativity: \forall  x, y \in G,  x*y = y*x

 

In addition to the axioms, the following properties of groups are important to note:

  1. Uniqueness of the identity element
  2. Uniqueness of the inverse element
  3. Cancellation law
  4. Inverse property (extended)

Uniqueness of an element in mathematics means there exists only one such element with that property. We prove uniqueness by making an assumption that there are two elements in the set that satisfy the property, and show that if such a situation holds, then the two elements must be equal!

We use * to denote the binary operation between elements and “QED” to signal the end of the proof.

The remainder of the post aims to go through the proofs of these properties!…

By | October 28th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

1.1 Groups Introduction

Binary operations are operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, modulus etc. that are applied to two quantities.

example 1: 2+5 is an example of an expression with addition as the binary operation

example 2: Let f and g be functions defined on sets A to B. Then the composition of the functions \text{ f(g(x)) } is a binary operation

We will use * to denote an arbitrary (general) binary operation.

A set G is “upgraded” into a group if it satisfied the following axioms under one binary operation (*) :

  1. Closure: \forall x, y \in  G, x*y \in G
  2. Associativity: \forall x, y, z \in G, (x*y)*z = x*(y*z)
  3.  Identity: \exists e \in G,  \text{ called the identity element  such that } \forall x \in G, x*e = e*x = x
  4. Inverse:  \exists y \in G, \text{is called an inverse element of } x \in G \text{ with } x*y = y*x = e

An Abelian group is a group that is follows the axioms 1 – 4 with the addition of one property: 

  1. Commutativity: \forall  x, y \in G,  x*y = y*x

For the remainder of this post, we will explore these axioms and look at some examples

Closure: \forall x, y \in  G, x*y \in G

This means we can take any elements in the set G and perform the operation defined by * and the result will also be an element in the group.…

By | October 28th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Taking a pipe round a corner corridor optimisation question

You have a corridor which has an L-shape in it. The corridor looks like this:

cor

where a and b are the widths of the sections of the corridor. The question is to find the longest pipe that can be carried down this corridor. The word pipe here just means something long and with essentially 0 thickness. There is a huge simplification which is being assumed here, which is that the corridor is only 2 dimensional. Of course in a 3 dimensional corridor we have a lot more room to manoeuvre.

Let’s think about a pipe going round the corner. The longest pipe that can go through is the length of the shortest gap that it has to go through. So let’s think of a pipe at a particular angle with respect to the corner:

cor2

The pipe here is the blue line and \theta is the angle that it makes with respect to the corner.…

By | October 24th, 2018|Courses, First year, MAM1000, Undergraduate|1 Comment

Prove that for every positive integer n, 9^n – 8n -1 is divisible by 64.

Prove that for every positive integer n, 9^n-8n-1 is divisible by 64.

This question screams proof by induction, so we start with the base case, which in this case is n=1:

9^1-8-1 which is indeed divisible by 64.

Now, let’s assume that it holds true for some positive integer n=k. ie:

9^k-8k-1=64p for p\in\mathbb{Z}.

Now let’s see how we can use this to prove that the statement holds true for n=k+1. For n=k+1 we have:

9^(k+1)-8(k+1)-1=9(9^k)-8k-8-1=9(9^k-8k-1)+64k

where we have manipulated the expression to contain the left hand side of the inductive hypothesis. Thereby, plugging in the inductive hypothesis, we get:

9^(k+1)-8(k+1)-1=9(9^k)-8k-8-1=9(64p)+64k=64(9p+k)

but clearly 9p+k is an integer, so this is divisible by 64 and thus the statement holds true for n=k+1, thus it holds true for all positive integers k

By | October 24th, 2018|Courses, First year, MAM1000, Uncategorized, Undergraduate|0 Comments

A tricky complex numbers problem

The question is as follows:

If \frac{\pi}{6}\in arg(z+a) and \frac{2\pi}{3}\in arg(z-a) and a\in \mathbb{R}, find z.

So, let’s think about the information given and what we are trying to find. We want to find the complex number z which satisfies this slightly strange set of constraints, and the constraints are given in terms of z and a. So, by the looks of things, the answer will depend on a and so the final expression should be a function of a.

Now let’s explore the constraints. In fact, let’s simply take z+a and z-a as two complex numbers, but importantly two numbers which differ only by a real number 2a, so wherever they lie in the complex plane, they have the same imaginary part and differ only by an real part.

Now, the constraints are about the arguments of the two complex numbers. It doesn’t tell us anything about the magnitude of the numbers, so all the information tells us is the direction are in relation to the origin.…

By | October 24th, 2018|Courses, First year, MAM1000, Uncategorized, Undergraduate|1 Comment

Using polynomials to solve differential equations

One of the aims of MAM1000W isn’t just to teach you individual mathematical topics, but over time to allow you to see the links between these subjects. Sometimes we do this explicitly, and sometimes you should notice the connections yourself simply by seeing one topic pop up in the middle of another. As I’ve written before, so much of it is about noticing patterns.

Today in class I gave a differential equation which wouldn’t be solvable by any of the methods we have looked at.

y''(x)+\cos(x)y'(x)+e^xy(x)=x^2

This is second order linear but its coefficients are not constant. We don’t have any way in to solve this. We actually wanted to solve this with the initial conditions y(0)=1 and y'(0)=-1.

Actually, that’s a lie. We didn’t want to solve it, but we wanted to get an approximation for the solution close to x=0. This is like saying: OK, so we have a differential equation for population dynamics, or climate change, or the heating of an object, and we don’t worry too much about the very far future, but we want to know what it’s going to do in the short term.…

By | October 15th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

The Diagnostic Mathematics Information for Student Retention and Success (DMISRS) Project

Presentation by Robert Prince, UCT at the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics Communities of Practice meeting at UJ, 29 – 30 August 2018

robert prince

The Diagnostic Mathematics Information for Student Retention and Success (DMISRS) Project

The problem: Only 27% of students entering full-time university in 2006 graduated in minimum time.

40% leave higher education.

41% of engineering and 48% of science 2006 entrants graduated in 5 years.

 

Educational diagnostic testing is assessment before instruction begins.

DMISRS – a collaboration by mathematicians to improve graduation rates.

  • Make use of NBT data to inform students and lecturers about what areas of weakness and strength are.
  • Share practices, leverage best practices.
  • Extend the reach of academics beyond a physical classroom.
  • Create supportive environments for maths learning [maybe using positive psychology]. What kinds of things will make our classrooms more welcoming to students.

Objectives

  1. Get more institutions on board to collect diagnostic information in the same style/language.
By | September 6th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments