“What’s your favourite number?”

Mathematician Alex Bellos was intensely irritated by the question. Was that person in the audience mocking him, or possibly ridiculing what he’d been saying about mathematics, to ask such a bizarre and irrelevant question at the end of his lecture? The audience member had asked him, as others had done before, “What’s your favourite number?” In this podcast conversation from Radiolab, Bellos describes his abrupt shift of perspective as he realizes that the questioner is asking in sincerity. Quickly, he discovers ...

TOK and mathematics: how not to be wrong?

"As it develops, mathematics moves both towards the abstractions of the mind, and also towards the connection with the world."  Thus begins the section on "Pure and Applied Mathematics" in the ToK Course Companion.  (p. 357).  The nature of the relationship between the abstract nature of mathematics and "the world" is one of several issues examined in a new book on mathematics by University of Wisconsin mathematician (and "maths journalist") Jordan Ellenberg.  In How Not to Be Wrong: The Power ...