Mathematical Mirrors

Educational Outreach Archive of Minhyong Kim

I have been interested in the dissemination of mathematical culture as long as I can remember. However, I have engaged seriously in mathematical outreach only since 2011. That is to say, I am very much a novice. During this period, I have given numerous lectures for primary and secondary school students and teachers, mostly in Korea. I also frequently lecture at corporate training workshops. In 2012, I collaborated with Hyungju Park to create the mathematics talk concert series `Knowledge Awake On Stage' that developed into the KAOS Foundation. In 2016-17, I was scientific coordinator with Hyungju Park for the programme 'Connecting Insight' sponsored by the Naver Connect Foundation with the goal of organising public lectures and training workshops for teachers as well as developing alternative curricula for schoolchildren. I have written five books for the general public. `The Moment You Need Mathematics' (2018) was on the list of top 20 bestsellers in Korea for eight weeks.

In 2019, Donga Science commemorated its 400th issue by selecting a list of Seven Power Scientists of Korea, in which I was included with special citation of my outreach activities.

This page includes a haphazard collection of links to material that might be of interest to the general public.

FAQ about learning mathematics

Some tentative answers to questions from parents and teachers (December, 2020)


The Moment You Need a Mathematical Viewpoint
A lecture for MBC television, in which I try to explain why the history of science is a series of footnotes to Pythagoras. (With apologies to A.N. Whitehead.)

Mathematics for Survival (September, 2020)
Preview of an episode of the series 'Differential Classes' by JTBC television in which I try to explain mathematics to TV personalities. I should say I was extremely impressed by the participants. The recording lasted over 6 hours and covered much more material than the programme. During this time they all remained engaged, asked good questions, and really wanted to learn. The production team was itself remarkably serious about achieving harmony between education and entertainment.

Mathematical Moments (September, 2020) A series of 17 lectures for the Korean Educational Broadcasting System. By way of examples from the dynamics of projectiles, topology, and the vibration of strings, I tried to explain why the language of mathematics is necessary for an understanding of nature, and that one shouldn't only rely on metaphors to achieve such an understanding.

Scientific Thinking and Mathematical Thinking (September, 2020)
A public lecture for the KAOS Foundation and the Korea Institute for Advanced Study.

An interview for the Western District Office of Education in Seoul (August, 2020)
The questions all came from parents of young children concerned about their children's education. Lacking expertise, I usually try to say as little as possible about educational issues of a direct sort. But here, I may have made at least a few mistakes and expressed ignorant opinions.

Unreal Science, a YouTube broadcast (August, 2020)
I hesitated quite a bit before participating in this and I'm sure many serious scientists will (rightly) regard it as frivolous. But I know that the intentions of the channel providers are serious. I've always admired the work of Matt Parker in the UK, who manages to combine mathematics outreach with stand-up comedy. It's somewhat reminiscent of Zen Buddhist methodology, whereby the master does absurd things sometimes to relax the mind and body of the student, allowing the difficult lessons to seep in. I will never be able to imitate Parker or a Zen master, but this was a small attempt at something vaguely similar, mostly thanks to the aid of my kind hosts. The broadcast went from 11PM to 1AM. I was really impressed by the regular viewers of this show, who numbered around 9000 at the highest point in the night, listening to mathematics.

Mathematics in History (August, 2020)
A series of 8 lectures for Naver, in which I discuss the Pythagoreans, the views of Plutarch and Pliny on Archimedes, the influence of Islamic mathematics on 17th century science, the poetry of Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, and Muriel Rukeyser's biography of Josiah Willard Gibbs.

Mathematics is everywhere Preview of an episode of the series 'Differential Classes' by JTBC television (2018).

The moment you need mathematics A Naver Live broadcast.

Is the Universe Shape or Number? A talk concert for The KAOS (Knowledge Awake On Stage) Foundation.

The Glass Bead Game This was the first talk concert of the KAOS foundation that took place in 2012 before the foundation was established

Mathematics: The Answer to Everything An interview for the KAOS Foundation

Connecting Mathematics to Physics Interview for Quanta Magazine

Is the Universe Geometric or Algebraic? Einstein Lecture at International Centre for Theoretical Physics and Christ University, Bengalaru

The Good and Evil of Probability Theory A lecture for the Connect Foundation

What are Numbers? A segment of a lecture series for Art and Study.


When You Need Mathematics Again
Influential Inc., Seoul (2020)

The Moment You Need Mathematics
Influential Inc., Seoul (2018)

The Learning of Mathematics
(with Taekyung Kim) Eunhaeng-namu Publishing, Seoul (2016)

Father's Mathematical Journey
Eunhaeng-namu Publishing, Seoul (2014)

Prime Fantasy
Banni Publishing, Seoul (2013)

Articles in Public Media

Column for Hankyeoreh Newspaper

17 December, 2020: Mathematics with a human face

18 November, 2020: Humans, education, and artifical intelligence

21 October, 2020: Nobel prize in physics for singular mathematician

16 September 2020: Atomism and Germ Theory

19 August, 2020: Descartes, the first modern meteorologist

22 July, 2020: Century of Crisis, Century of Innovation

Miscellaneous Articles

Worthwhile mathematics is difficult for everyone Korean Economics News (8 October, 2019)

The Country where Children Give Up on Mathematics Hankyeoreh newapaper (1 April, 2015)

Looking for the Romance of Mathematics in the Music of Chopin Chosun Daily (13 January, 2016)

Why the ICM is not the Mathematical Olympics Chosun Daily (20 August, 2014)

Overcoming the Fear of Mathematics Donga Daily (1 September, 2019)

Secret Link Uncovered Between Mathematics and Physics Quanta Magazine (December, 2017)

Selections from the serial 'Professor Kim's Mathematical Promenade' for Donga Science (requires login)

Infinity, Mathematics, and the Universe

The Number System of Matter

The Mathematical World of Michael Atiyah

The Structure Theory of Equations

A Few Essays

Mathematical vistas

Mathematical Journeys
(2011, contribution to Korean edition of `Les Dechiffreurs')

On number and space
(September, 2010, lecture in memory of Yunsan Lee Won-Guk)

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in Seoul
(June, 2012)

Non-abelian fundamental groups in arithmetic geometry
(for INI administration, (2009)

Geometry, Light, Probability, and Numbers: The Mathematical World of Pierre de Fermat Horizons of Knowledge (2015) (requires login)

Michael Atiyah and the Mediterranean
(January, 2019)

IUTT Workshop, Oxford, December, 2015: A Brief Summary
(12 December, 2015)

Mathematical resources

I am including here some material available online related to mathematics and its ramifications. I will try to make a more systematic presentation some day.

Christopher Zeeman's 1978 Chistmas Lectures at the Royal Institution Zeeman was a visionary mathematician and a gifted communicator. It is quite inspiring to watch him speak to the general public about mathematics in a direct and candid style in the days before extensive use of technology.

Numberphile Numerous videos with brisk and humorous presentation of mathematical phenomena.

Desmos Graphing Calculator Very nice online tool. With any graph, try putting a letter 'c' in some place you would have a number, say y=sin(x)+sin(x-c), then click 'add slider'.

Scissors Congruence A beautiful app illustrating the Wallace-Bolyai-Gerwien theorem.

How to become a good theoretical physicist I haven't looked at this too carefully, but it looks like a nice perspective from a distinguished physicist. Randomly exploring this website may teach you a good deal about probability.

Applications of Mathematics A page created by a private company that contains a very nice snapshot of the variety of modern applications of mathematics. I should try to create one of these days an academic version of this.

3 Blue 1 Brown A channel run by a gifted expositor who is especially good at visualising mathematics.

Physics Girl A highly entertaining and well-presented series of videos that show natural phenomena and experiments that illustrate mathematical principles.

Online tone generator A tool for generating pure frequencies in a variety of timbres.

Online spectrum analyzer An online tool for taking a recorded sound apart into the different frequencies that are contained in it.

Longitudinal wave Illustration of longitudinal wave using a slinky.

Everything formula An episode of numberphiles showing an especially interesting formula with a property that combines mathematics and digital technology.