Carr’s Synopsis and Sixth Term Entrance Papers

Students in search of extension work in maths, particularly as far as Sixth Term Entrance Papers (STEP) are concerned, should peruse Carr’s Synopsis of results in Elementary Pure Mathematics.

This book is famous for being the volume used by the autodidact Ramanujan to teach himself mathematics.  The book is merely a list of results and student how works through them, proving each one, will develop a strong ability in the subject.  This life line into higher mathematics could not be produced in the same form in today’s educational and publishing context but, perhaps, Carr deserves a place as one of the subject’s great educators.

Higher mathematics is about generalisation and abstraction.  Because of this, school mathematics students can find university text books unreadable.  In such a context how can harder, higher level questions be set using the frame work of sixth form mathematics? The answer to this question is to wind the clock back to the 1880s and see how the subject was constructed then.  Carr does this for us; many useful stages in school mathematics are listed here with extensions and generalisation written in generally sixth form recognisable form.

Take question 1 from this year’s (2016) STEP I exam.  Pupils will only have to be familiar with the first six results to tackle this quickly.

carr1to6

The question play is all about the divisibility of,

x^{2n+1}+1

which result 6, above, tells us is

(x+1)(x^{2n}-x^{2n-1}+\dots+1).

Question game play leads us to factorise large numbers (without use of calculator):

\dfrac{300^{3}+1}{301}=89911\times 90091

and

\dfrac{7^{49}+1}{7^{7}+1}=[(7^{7}+1)^{3}-7^{4}(7^{14}+7^{7}+1)][(7^{7}+1)^{3}+7^{4}(7^{14}+7^{7}+1)]

in a difference of two squares (result 1) construction.

Full solution is attached.

step-i-2016-q1

Before the beginning – Euclid’s Common Notions

This preamble from Euclid’s Elements is where mathematics education still goes wrong, even after 2000 years or so.

Sound notions of what equality is are required as a bedrock of algebra.  Dynamic approaches of teaching equation solving, in which terms and numbers move and change sign, seem to work at first but lack the simplicity of mathematical logic and create all sorts of problems when randomly, but apparently sensibly, applied.

Conic sections in the sand give shipwrecked philosophers good hope

 

Conic sections in the sand give shipwrecked Socratic philosopher, Aristippus, good hope.

I wonder if this ancient tale, in which the mathematics of planetary motion some 2000 years prior to it’s application in space travel, is used to signify the presence of intelligent life and therefore hope of salvation has some echo in our modern era.

What obscure and impenetrable modern theorems could be left on a 21st century beach to do the same job?