Articles on Mathematical Topics

Below is a collection of articles on various mathematical topics.  Although they are written with a student audience in mind, they may well make useful background reading for teachers.

A small group of much shorter articles can be found here.

Keeping it Safe and Quiet

Age 14 to 18

Simon Singh describes PKC, its origins, and why the science of code making and breaking is such a secret occupation.

From A Random World to a Rational Universe

Age 7 to 16

In the time before the mathematical idea of randomness was discovered, people thought that everything that happened was part of the will of supernatural beings. So have things changed?

A Brief History of Time Measurement

Age 11 to 18

Noticing the regular movement of the Sun and the stars has led to a desire to measure time. This article for teachers and learners looks at the history of humanity's need to measure things.

Maths in the Victorian Classroom

Age 7 to 14

What was it like to learn maths at school in the Victorian period? We visited the British Schools Museum in Hitchin to find out.

Plaiting and Braiding

Age 7 to 14

This article for students gives some instructions about how to make some different braids.

Lucky Numbers

Age 5 to 11

This article for pupils explores what makes numbers special or lucky, and looks at the numbers that are all around us every day.

A Story about Absolutely Nothing

Age 7 to 18

This article for the young and old talks about the origins of our number system and the important role zero has to play in it.

On Time?

Age 5 to 14

This article explains how Greenwich Mean Time was established and in fact, why Greenwich in London was chosen as the standard.

Adding with the Abacus

Age 5 to 16

Nowadays the calculator is very familiar to many of us. What did people do to save time working out more difficult problems before the calculator existed?

History of Money

Age 5 to 14

If you would like a new CD you would probably go into a shop and buy one using coins or notes. (You might need to do a bit of saving first!) However, this way of paying for the things you want did not always exist. Find out more ...


Age 5 to 14

Find out about palindromic numbers by reading this article.

A History of Astronomy

Age 7 to 11

Astronomy grew out of problems that the early civilisations had. They needed to solve problems relating to time and distance - both mathematical topics.

History of Fractions

Age 7 to 14

Who first used fractions? Were they always written in the same way? How did fractions reach us here? These are the sorts of questions which this article will answer for you.

History of Measurement

Age 7 to 14

This article tells you all about some early ways of measuring as well as methods of measuring tall objects we can still use today. You can even have a go at some yourself!

The Secret World of Codes and Code Breaking

Age 7 to 16

When you think of spies and secret agents, you probably wouldn’t think of mathematics. Some of the most famous code breakers in history have been mathematicians.