Count us in

Mathematics is a natural part of our cultural heritage, so argues author Gareth Ffowc Roberts, Emeritus Professor of Education at Bangor University in his new book Count Us In.

Prof Roberts explains: “The process of counting, like the process of communicating with words, is common to all societies worldwide but, just as there is a rich variety of languages, so too is there a rich variety in methods of counting and of recording numbers – methods that have developed over centuries to meet the needs of various groups of people.

"For example the traditional way of counting in Welsh is based on counting in twenties, a method common to a number of other languages but one which in modern Welsh has been largely replaced by counting in tens. So, in Welsh, people no longer refer to the number 37 as two-on-fifteen-on-twenty but more simply as three-tens-seven. This gives young children who are taught to count in Welsh a distinct advantage over those who are taught in English and who have to understand twelve as one-ten-two in order to understand what the number actually means. But there are many other twists to this intriguing story!"

As a popular book on mathematics and on the personalities who created it, there are no prerequisites beyond the reader’s possibly hazy recollection of primary-school mathematics and a curiosity to know more.

Count Us In is published by the University of Wales Press on 15 February and will be launched formally on 22 February at the Senedd Oriel in Cardiff Bay, an event sponsored by Alun Ffred Jones AM.

The book has already been described by Guardian blogger Alex Bellos as: 'A delightful and fascinating read about the role of maths in Wales, and the role of Wales in maths. Anyone with an interest in Welsh culture, maths history or education will love this book.’

Publication date: 8 February 2016