January 2015 e-Student on Cyber security


Welcome to the January IMA e-Student newsletter

All best wishes for a happy, healthy and successful new year. I hope you managed to survive the colds and flu doing the rounds over the break. As it is so cold at the moment it seemed appropriate for an energy/climate theme and also topical, cyber security for the case studies and profiles. The useful section is on problem solving and creativity.

All best wishes, Erica

Erica Tyson MIMA

University Liaison Officer


There is an IMA group on LinkedIn and the Early Career Mathematicians’ group is on Facebook.

Mathematics Today content

Selected articles from the August issue of Mathematics Today


The Mathematics Manifesto (First Draft)

Fair Pricing of Pooled Investment Vehicles & Urban Maths: A Fair Proof

Big Data – Mathematical Challenges

Pendulum Pattern Perception

Career profile Dominic Thorrington – Researcher

And from the August issue of the Met Office online newsletter Barometer

Climate & Change? Do the Maths

Mathematics Matters

Case studies from the Mathematics Matters series

Internet shopping: stopping the scammers

if you didn’t read it in the last issue it fits with this theme

Statistically Secure Identities

And from the new batch and tying in with the Met Office article on climate change

Accurately measuring cycling numbers

Marine power

A smarter future for next generation local electricity networks


And a couple of KTN case studies

Knowledge Transfer Networks

Weathering the storm

Where the wind blows

KTNs are an initiative of Innovate UK,  formerly the Technology Strategy Board – “the UK’s innovation agency, accelerating economic growth.” https://connect.innovateuk.org/home



Problem solving and Creativity are strongly linked and are sometimes spoken of interchangeably but are not really the same thing. A formal problem solving approach focuses on gathering the facts, working through all the information to identify root cause or to fully establish constraints and requirements before attempting the creative bit of coming up with ideas for solution. Arriving at a correct solution often breaks down at the information gathering stage if people leap straight into solving what they think is the problem without getting to what really explains all the information not just one or two of the ‘symptoms’. Bear in mind, if you are asking people what happened or what is needed, imperfect or even selective understanding can distort the information.

Having identified the root cause that explains all the available history or pinned down all the requirements if it is for something new, if the solution is not obvious from the nature of the challenge (similar to something that has been seen and solved before) the creative bit comes in putting together ideas for a solution and then selecting which one or two are most appropriate to pursue further. Tools to help the ideas generation process:

  • brainstorming – dumping ideas without any attempt to evaluate them, including how similar problems have been solved already,
  • reframing the problem – can you turn it upside down or inside out, apply a transformation
  • use a diverse team – people with different backgrounds and experience can offer different ideas
  • talk it over with people nothing to do with your project (confidentiality clauses permitting)
  • take breaks and do something different for a while – the classic Eureka moment arriving when relaxed
  • engaging other senses, music, colour, aromas ‘wake up and smell the coffee’,  going for a walk/run/cycle (depending on your energy level)
  • juggling

The next stage is to choose the most appropriate route to address the identified cause/requirements and constraints. This might involve a formal decision analysis against a list of carefully weighted success criteria or a quick listing of pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses. What is appropriate depends on the size of the problem and the cost of the project involved. A useful tool for groups trying to undertake this process is the De Bono 6 Hats  http://www.debonogroup.com/six_thinking_hats.php . It offers a metaphor to discipline which mode of thinking everyone is in and avoids some members shooting down and/or advocating particular ideas whilst the group is still trying to generate ideas or evaluate them. It also helps stop going back over ground already covered on an idea(s) whilst trying to assess other ideas.

Again depending on the nature of the challenge if there is no clear best approach you might pursue more than one of the best potential solutions until it becomes clearer or time and/or cost constraints force you to choose.

Although some people may be better at generating ideas than others, experience, working with (other) clever people and researching what has been done in similar situations will develop your abilities and anyone can apply a disciplined problem solving approach.

IMA Maths Careers

And from MathsCareers website www.mathscareers.org.uk and +plus magazine

Maire O’Neill – Cryptography research team leader, ECIT Institute, Queen’s University Belfast

Clare Nasir – Meteorologist

Sian Bethan – Environmental Consultant

Vicky Harris – Quality Assurance Engineer – Energy Industry

Maths Teacher Scholarships

Thinking about teaching maths as a career and are applying for Initial Teacher Training starting next September? See here for a flavour of what maths teaching is like. You can apply for a £25,000 Scholarship instead of the bursary payment.

Given the work you have to do to apply for your initial teacher training place, why should you jump through even more hoops in order to apply for a Scholarship? Well it is well worth doing.

After all you would receive:

  • A prestigious award recognising your potential to be an inspirational teacher
  • £25,000 tax free paid in instalments in your training year (replacing any bursary entitlement)
  • Membership of a community enabling Scholars to share experiences and provide peer support
  • Access to independent specialist advice and support and workshops and events to support your development
  • Free membership for two years of professional and subject associations
  • Free access to resources to support your teaching and learning
  • A ‘leg up’ when looking for your first job – the Scholarship looks great on your CV

In terms of your subject knowledge for Key stages 3 & 4, go to www.ncetm.org.uk/self-evaluation/ for a useful self evaluation tool

“The Scholarship scheme is a fantastic support network for enthusiastic teachers – full of teaching ideas, decades of wisdom and a great way to make contact with peers on different courses in different parts of the country. The application process is friendly and assessors are enthusiastic and interested in you, happy to talk and share ideas”. Sarah Kirkpatrick – 2014 Maths Scholar

Maths Education Policy Update

At the end of last year, ACME (Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education) published notes from a November discussion of recommendations from Empowering teachers: success for learners. This note summarises the discussion and identifies points for further consideration. Info on ACME’s professional development can be found here

Thank you, Dagmar Waller Project Manager, Mathematics Teacher Training Scholarships

Events and Conferences

Branches and other Talks

  • IMA @ 50 Maths Walks
  • 2nd March 2015 – Polygonal Numbers, pictures and proof by Ron Knott, Manchester Grammar School 2pm
  • 10th March 2015 Louise Dyson, Manchester
  • 16th March 2015 – Presidential Address by Professor Dame Celia Hoyles, International Centre for Mathematical Sciences in Edinburgh, 7pm
  • 24th March 2015 – Symmetry in Mathematics and Art by Sarah Hart (Birkbeck College, UL) Maths Building, Nottingham University, 7.30pm
  • 15th April 2015 – Analysing Complex Systems: is simulation always the only or best way? by Mike Tanner, John Dalton Building, Manchester Metropolitan, 6pm
  • 21st May 2015 – Presidential address Professor Dame Celia Hoyles, John Dalton Building, Manchester Metropolitan, 5.45pm
  • 2nd July 2015 – ALEX THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life’ by Alex Bellos LTB6 Essex University 3.45pm

The Royal Aeronautical Society has an extensive branch network offering talks across the country. Non-members may be charged a small fee. http://www.aerosociety.com/Events/Calendar

London Mathematical Society Popular Lecturers. Nothing posted yet so check their web site from time to time for dates for the new academic year http://www.lms.ac.uk/events/popular-lectures

Royal Statistical Society Events calendar http://www.statslife.org.uk/events/events-calendar

British Society for the History of Mathematics: http://www.dcs.warwick.ac.uk/bshm/events.html

Maths or relevant articles in other publications

Vivek Juneja has written a book of Mathematical Puzzles http://notionpress.com/read/puzzles. Here is a sample puzzle.


These are a few things I’ve come across in my reading.

New Scientist – www.newscientist.com

6th December 2014: p10-11 ‘Google rides D-wave’ about quantum computing, p18 ‘Time cloak hides messages in gaps between photons’, p24 ‘Accept without reading?’ about the need for clearer social media terms of use.

13th December: p8-9 ‘On the road to a climate fix’, p22 ‘Network – minus the work’ digital job-seeking, p27 ‘Beyond the imitation game’ one minute interview with artificial intelligence expert Mark Riedl, p32-41 ‘Concepts’ no 5 is infinity, no8 is probability and no9 is maths.

20/27th December: p52-54 ‘Fold your own universe’ and p75-77 ‘Down 1 …’ about computer crossword setting.

3rd January 2015: p18-19 ‘Turn on, tune in, don’t drop out’ on a US teaching initiative working particularly well for maths.

10th January:p7 ‘Proof positive (not)’, p20-21 ‘Return of the arcade’, p42 ‘One per cent inspiration’ reviews of books on creativity.

17th January: p22 ‘A city of numbers’ big data use in Boston.


Physics World –  www.physicsworld.com

December 2014: p28-31 ‘A taste for anelloni’ about the behaviour of ring shaped polymers and the Careers section on p42 is about being a research group leader

January 2015: p10 ‘Risks taint geoengineering methods’ on the outcome of geoengineering simulations. P28-32 ‘Synthesising speech’ on synthesising speech by solving an inverse problem. Careers on p44 is on setting up and running your own business.

Aerospace – www.aerosociety.com

December 2014: p14-17 ‘Science in the air’ how data is collected by aircraft.

January 2015: p24-25 ‘Greener skies ahead’ on Boeing’s environmental initiatives.

Information about the Aerospace MSc bursary scheme


St Andrews History of Maths website http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/history/

ULO calendar

Coming up Spring 2015

Surrey University 26th February 12-1pm

UCL Maths Society 27th February 3-4pm

Cardiff University 5th March 3-4pm

Sheffield University 7th March Early Career Mathematicians Conference

IMA 2015 Conference, 19th March, Mary Ward House

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