## Maryam Mirzakhani passes

There was sad news today: Maryam Mirzakhani passed away at the age of 40 from breast cancer. Mirzakhani worked on geometry in a very modern sense, focusing on the fields of hyperbolic geometry and the geometry and dynamics of Riemann surfaces. She was best known for winning the Fields Medal in 2014, sometimes called the Nobel Prize for mathematics, and she was the first woman in history to win that award.

Mirzakhani became a role model to young women and men in mathematics and STEM. Mirzakhani is survived by her husband Jan Vondrák and her daughter Anahita. My condolences on their loss.

I’ll close with a few inspiring words from her interview with the Clay Institute:

“I did poorly in math for a couple of years in middle school; I was just not interested in thinking about it. I can see that without being excited mathematics can look pointless and cold. The…

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## You can’t hide from the primes

### What are primes?

A prime number is a positive integer with exactly two different divisors. For example, 2 is prime, as 1 and 2 divide it. The same is true for 3, 5, and 7. But 6 is not prime as it has four divisors 1, 2, 3 and 6.

The Ulam spiral, where colored cells are primes. A larger version is the featured image of the blog.

On first glance, we may think that primes are not so useful. After all, we don’t use primes in daily life. Or do we? Read on!

First, we provide a few basic and not so basic facts about primes.

• A handy fact: to determine that a number n is prime, check for prime divisors at most √n. For example, we can quickly determine that 83 is prime by checking that 2, 3, 5 and 7 are not divisors.
• Every number is a product of primes. For example…

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## A perspective on teaching mixed attainment

In a world first for this blog, I have a guest post!

The power of collaboration and Twitter has led me to Bruce Gray (@bucksburnMaths)  who teaches in Bucksburn Academy in Aberdeen.  I am a recent convert to teaching mathematics in mixed attainment groups rather than sets but I am a pragmatist at heart and fully understand the reservations and difficulties with this approach.  It is not a small decision for a maths department to switch from teaching in sets to mixed attainment groups, especially if other subjects retain sets as my school does.  My summary of how to do it which I have written about before:

1. Collaboration and co-planning must be part of it
2. Do it one year at a time, i.e. start in Year 7, and review each year

To find out more, check out www.mixedattainmentmaths.com.  The first #mixedattainmentmaths conference was held in January and plans are being…

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## This is fun…but is it math?

A few months ago, I got an email from one of the art teachers in the school.  She was offering her classroom, a makerspace of sorts, and her creative expertise to any teacher that wanted to bring their class down.

I jumped at the opportunity.  After all, what have I been enjoying most about math lately? Making and appreciating #mathart.

So. We brainstormed and ultimately settled on doing a project that would lead into our upcoming similarity unit.  It would have the kids constructing equilateral triangles descending in size, alternating colors, each triangle with a side length the same as the height of the previous triangle.

The students had never done constructions before, so it was a good introduction to using a compass, and it was also a chance for the students to play with the artistic concepts of structure, contrasting color choice, and composition.  The kids had fun, and…

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