Raising public awareness of mathematics

The World Mathematical Year 2000 boosted many initiatives intended to Raise Public Awareness in Mathematics (RPAM). Ten years later in 2010 an international workshop was organized by the Centro Internacional de Matematicá and the Raising Public Awareness committee of the EMS. This book contains the (post factum) proceedings of this conference held in Óbidos (PT). It contains 28 contributions which report on many different RPAM initiatives.

The harvest is abundant and the formats are very diverse, but the editors organized the texts in four parts: National experiences, Exhibitions and mathematical museums, Popularisation activities and Popularisation - why and how.

John D. Barrow and Robin Wilson give `some snapshots' of what is happening in the UK, Jean-Pierre Bourgain does something similar for France, and Wolfram Koepf explains the German website mathematik.de complemented with other "do's and don'ts" given by Günter M. Ziegler and Thomas Vogt raised from experience of the Mathematical Media Office of the DMV. The account by Reinhard Laubenbacher about the USA includes arguments for convining politicians to fund mathematics. Renata Ramalho and Nuno Crato highlight debate and results for RPAM and Mathematical education in Portugal. The many initiatives in Spain are reported by Raúl Ináñez Torres.

The second part about exhibitions and mathematical museums shows different examples of real and virtual exhibitions. We give a selection. Mathema is a large and most successful exhibition organized in Berlin in 2008; Mathematikum is a mathematical science center in Giessen (DE); The Italian exhibition Il Giardino di Archimedes pays attention to mathematics in history, play, and everyday's life; In Portugal, the Atractor Association is involved in both physical exhibitions but also in virtual aids like GeCla, a DVD and website with interactive possibilities to play many mathematical puzzles, generate tilings, and experiment with symmetry; IMAGINARY is another very extensive open source math exhibition platform.

Part three has more of the same. The website www.mathematics-in-europe.eu is an initiative of the EMS that was initiated at the Óbidos workshop in 2010 (the text was written in January 2011). Furthermore the reader can find guidelines for resorting maximal effect from minimal cost, a retrospective of the period WMY2000-2010, mathematics used in magic trics, how to exploit RPAM from an interdisciplinary item or from any event that raised public awareness, linking mathematics (visualisation) and art, etc.

In part 4, collects some papers of a more reflective nature. Again a selection: About the usefulness of mathematics and rigour used in communicating about it; the role played by Martin Gardner and his books about recreational mathematics and his columns in Scientific American; research-application-communication are three different aspects of our mathematical experience; how do we keep all current attention for mathematics alive.

The authors are all responsible for or working on the project they report on, or they are really knowledgeable about the survey given. If you want to start up another initiative in this context, you may learn many things from this book: a white paper for setting up an exhibition, topics and the material needed for organizing a workshop, links to interactive websites you want to add to your own creation, they are all there. Or maybe you are just generally interested and then there is much fun exposed left for you to grasp. I could not resist to hop around on the cited websites and play with many of the most amazing interactive possibilities offered by them.


A. Bultheel
KU Leuven
Book details

This book contains the proceedings of an international conference held in Óbidos (PT) in 2010, ten years after the World Mathematical Year 2000. It was jointly organized by the Centro Internacional de Matematicá and the Raising Public Awareness (RPA) committee of the EMS. In 28 contributions is reported on many different initiatives concerning RPA (websites, exhibitions, real or virtual museums, national initiatives, etc.) from all over the world but mainly from within Europe.

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