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Bill Smith / Flickr Creative Commons

Literacy. It's something many of us take for granted. The ability to read health forms, headlines, or the latest bestsellers. Yet, across the U.S., there are millions of adults who have difficulty reading.

This hour, we find out why. We talk with literacy experts and advocates, and we also hear from you.

Terri D'Arcangelo

How do you make a 100-meter telescope that folds down to three meters so you can tuck it inside a space vehicle? How do you make a heart stent that folds out inside the human body? In each case, researchers have turned to masters of origami, the thousand-year-old art of paper folding.

Bill Smith / Creative Commons

Literacy. It's something many of us take for granted. The ability to read health forms, headlines, or the latest bestsellers. Yet, across the U.S., there are millions of adults who have difficulty reading.

This hour, we find out why. We talk with literacy experts and advocates, and we also hear from you.

Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

The Ethel Walker School in Simsbury recently hosted a fair showcasing its STEAM summer program. The program gives kids in pre-K through fifth grade from Hartford Public Schools an opportunity to develop skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

zenilorac / flickr creative commons

Numbers are so fundamental to our understanding of the world around us that we maybe tend to think of them as an intrinsic part of the world around us. But they aren't. Humans invented numbers just as much as we invented all of language.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr

If there's one thing that unites us all (literally, ALL of us) it's gravity. Gravity attracts every bit of matter in the universe to every other bit of matter in the universe, no exceptions! But for something (a warping of space-time, to be precise) so universally present, it remains one of the least understood forces in physics.

zenilorac / flickr creative commons

Numbers are so fundamental to our understanding of the world around us that we maybe tend to think of them as an intrinsic part of the world around us. But they aren't. Humans invented numbers just as much as we invented all of language.

At MIT, bright young engineers are still asked to tackle devilish math problems on their way to a degree.

But officials at Boston Public Schools (BPS) are hoping they can turn their attention to the world outside. Like the problem the district faces each morning: how to get thousands of students to school using more than 600 buses without burning through too much money or learning time.

Arturo Pardavila III / flickr creative commons

On May 2, 2016, with a 2-2 draw between Tottenham and Chelsea, Leicester City clinched the league title for the first time in their 132-year history. The BBC called it "one of the greatest sporting stories of all time." Leicester were 5,000-to-1 underdogs before the Premier League season started.

Edoardo Di Falchi / Flickr

Why is there something rather than nothing? This has been described as perhaps the most sublime philosophical question of all. Today, on The Colin McEnroe Show, we answer it. But as we do, we realize that it's not just a philosophical quandary; it's a scientific, cultural, and theological one as well.

University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences / Creative Commons

They're moms and mentors; mathematicians and microbiologists.

This hour: women in STEM. We hear from a team of women scientists and engineers, and consider what's being done to foster the next wave of female STEM leaders. 

Irina Pechkareva / Flickr Creative Commons

Patterns are everywhere: both in the wonders of nature and in the man-made world. They exist in the formations of crystals and clouds, in art and music, and in math and science. It is therefore no surprise that we, as inhabitants of this pattern filled world, are wired to find them.

And it's not only humans that have this ability; pattern recognition is a skill shared by all mammals. Since the first primates learned that certain weather patterns meant a storm and others meant it was time to hunt, life on this planet has both created and responded to patterns for survival. 

Little children are big news this week, as the White House holds a summit on early childhood education on Wednesday. The president wants every 4-year-old to go to preschool, but the new Congress is unlikely to foot that bill.

Since last year, more than 30 states have expanded access to preschool. But there's still a lack of evidence about exactly what kinds of interventions are most effective in those crucial early years.

Trane Devore / Creative Commons

While the rest of us struggle to balance our post-Black Friday checkbooks, America’s top college mathematicians are preparing for one of the most advanced and prestigious math events in North america. Yes, it’s time again for the annual William Lowell Putnam Competition.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

In high school the math teacher who broke my spirit was also the head football coach. When he handed back your tests he called out the position you'd play on the team based on your number. So End was good. You didn't want him yelling halfback as he tossed your test paper towards you; that meant a score in the 40's or worse. I was dragging along miserably in his course so my mother hired a tutor through a local college. His name was Hare and he was newly arrived from India. His accent was so dense that I often could not understand what was being said to me so we communicated through numbers and I started to understand math. I think I wasn't all that bad at it. I got a great S.A.T. score in math but I was a struggling C student because the only man who ever communicated with me was the man who couldn't reach me with words.

Let's start with a little word problem. Sixty percent of the nation's 12.8 million community college students are required to take at least one course in subject X. Eighty percent of that 60 percent never move on past that requirement.

  1. Let Y = the total percentage of community college students prevented from graduating simply by failing that one subject, X. What is Y?

    The answer: Y = 48.

  2. And if you haven't guessed it by now, What is X?

Four mathematicians were today awarded the Fields Medal, including Iranian Maryam Mirzakhani, the first female mathematician to be given the honor that's often called math's equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

Mirzakhani, 37, is a professor at Stanford University and was honored in Seoul, South Korea, for her "striking and highly original contributions to geometry and dynamical systems."

Here's more from Stanford:

Searchers are feeling overwhelmed by the task of locating the wreckage of missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

"We're not searching for a needle in a haystack — we're still trying to define where the haystack is," Australian Air Marshal Mark Binskin said Tuesday. The current search zone stretches across many thousands of square miles of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia.

Defence Images / Creative Commons

In 1962, the Nobel Prize was awarded to three scientists, James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins, for their work in discovering the fundamental structure of DNA: the double helix. Today, Watson, Crick, and Wilkins maintain international prestige for their findings. 

The Sound of Sorting

Nov 14, 2013
panthema.net

Ever wonder what an algorithm sounds like when it's being sorted? Wonder no more. A demo program called "The Sound of Sorting" visualizes algorithms and provides interesting sound effects, too -- low notes for smaller values, and high notes for higher values.

Rainbow Lyf / Creative Commons

Spoiler! The answer's not infinity plus one. Heck, it's not even infinity times infinity. (Yes, I'm sad to say that ad with the guy in the suit sitting with the kids is lying to you.) 

Rainbow Lyf / Creative Commons

Infinity is weird. It's neither even nor odd. It's not a number. Really, it's just a concept we use to summarize that which we can't understand.

Sujata Srinivasan

A new study finds that the way teachers interact with young children while they play, can have a powerful impact on toddlers’ mathematical abilities. WNPR visits a pre-school on the campus of Eastern Connecticut State University.

This toddler is rolling a dice on a board game, trying to figure out how many spaces to get to a pig. Along the way, his teacher is constantly engaging him in “math talk.” The child was one of about 65 four and five-year-olds in a study on the importance of math education during play.

Professor Sudha Swaminathan.

A new report out from Brookings confirms what many in Connecticut might have suspected: science, technology, engineering and math skills are vital to more than just universities and pharma companies. In fact, the study estimates 20 percent of all jobs -- about 26 million around the nation -- are dependent on a high level of skill in one of the STEM disciplines. That's a huge increase over previous estimates.

Alex (Wikimedia Commons)

We talk a lot about cities and urban planning on Where We Live - the way cities work, fit together, breathe and function.

But when it gets right down to it, I’m viewing the city structure from my “liberal arts” background - not using math to “crunch the numbers” about what makes a city.

Flickr Creative Commons, blprnt_van

A poll conducted in 1997 showed Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly leading incumbent John Rowland by four points. 

Flickr Creative Commons, Jorge Franganillo

For years I have been ignorantly fascinated by Game Theory. By that I mean I know there's this whole interesting study of strategy and decision making that would inform my understanding of a lot of things -- politics, business, psychology -- if I only knew more about it.  

Harriet Jones

State estimates say there may be as many as a thousand unfilled jobs in advanced manufacturing currently available in Connecticut. As our series continues on education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, we look at how the state is preparing the workers who will take this industry forward. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.

This is the precision manufacturing program at Asnuntuck Community College.

Connecticut’s Governor has staked a lot on reforming the state’s educational system. And a large part of the motivation is to provide a workforce literate in science, technology, engineering and math – the STEM skills. But the pace of technological change is getting quicker every year, and figuring out how to train workers for the high value industries of the 21st century is ever more challenging. This week on the business report we begin a series of reports on three industries vital to Connecticut’s future, and ask whether the state is living up to its reputation for a superior workforce.

Fringe Physicists

May 8, 2012
Caption & photo used with permission - Jim Carter

Somewhere in the United States today, an envelope will arrive at a university math or science department, and in it will be some person's paradigm-shattering idea -- a novel theory that drastically violates or disrupts settled science.

The world is full of outsider physicists and rouge mathematicians. And, of course, one or two of them are basically correct about something. Einstein worked in a patent office. Michael Faraday did not have a university degree.

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