Topic: Mathematics

Current Event February 17, 2021

Earthquake May Have Changed Mt. Everest's Height

Geography International Mathematics

The height of the world’s tallest mountain is changing. The height of Mount Everest, located on the border between China and Nepal, was recorded at 29,029 feet. But over hundreds of years, natural events, such as earthquakes and moving plates in the Earth’s crust, have caused the mountain’s height to shift. In recent years, Chinese and Nepalese scientists have worked together to re-measure the giant peak. Listen to learn about the methods used to measure the mountain and challenges involved, and hear a climber explain why the height of the mountain matters to her.

Note: Since this story aired, the height of Mt. Everest was newly measured at 29,032 feet.

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Candy Mountain: Using Sweets to Study the Earth

Geology Mathematics Earth Systems

Landscapes evolve very slowly, over thousands of years, which makes them both fascinating and a little difficult to study. Mathematicians have looked at landscape features, including mountains and big rock formations, and wondered where their interesting shapes come from. To find answers they began experimenting, except they didn’t use rocks - they used candy! The process allowed them to speed up their investigation and find the answers they were looking for. Listen to learn how hard candy helped mathematicians study and understand landscapes.

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Current Event July 1, 2020

COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise

Health Mathematics

As states reopen and coronavirus infection rates begin to rise, public health officials are monitoring the spread of disease. The “R,” or reproduction number, indicates how many people a sick person is likely to infect. An R of two, meaning every sick person infects two other people, translates into exponential spread in the community, and the goal of safety measures is to lower the R to less than one. Listen to learn which states currently have surging infection rates and how small changes in the reproduction number can mean big changes in the rate of illness.

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Physics Helps Falcons Fly Fast

Animals Mathematics Forces and Newton's Laws Motion

The fastest animal on Earth is not a land animal. The peregrine falcon can fly at speeds of over 200 miles per hour when it hunts for its next meal. It is difficult to study something that moves so fast, so scientists have to use different methods to gather information. Listen to a scientist explain how physics and mathematical equations are used to answer questions about the flight of a peregrine falcon.

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High School Astronomer Uses Math to Find Planets

Environment Space Systems Mathematics Forces and Newton’s Laws

There is no minimum age for scientific discovery. Young scientists ask questions about topics that have puzzled humans for hundreds of years. This audio story introduces a high school senior who uses math to help astronomers search for undiscovered planets. Listen to hear more about this project and other amazing work done by Ana Humphrey.

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How Time Works

Mathematics Human Behavior Physics

Time is something that every person on the planet thinks about every day. It is talked about like a commodity: “spend time” or “waste time” are phrases that are often used. But, what is time? Scientists have grappled with this subject for a long “time”! Listen to hear more about time and why the current system is used to keep track of time.

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Current Event May 21, 2019

Earth Calling Space

Engineering Space Systems Space Transportation Tech Mathematics Motion

The job of an astronaut on the International Space Station is demanding, and those interested in the job must have many skills and qualifications. Astronauts must be prepared for spacewalks, science experiments, station maintenance, and many other tasks. Like any job, being an astronaut has its own special quirks and challenges. Listen to hear from some astronauts on the International Space Station about their experiences orbiting the earth for science.

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Current Event March 14, 2018

Happy Pi Day!


Happy Pi Day! March 14 is celebrated in different ways in cities across the country. Pi, or 3.14, is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, and has been calculated to over one trillion digits. It was named for the Greek letter Pi, which corresponds with the letter ‘P’ which stands for the perimeter of the circle. Pi is an irrational number whose decimals continue infinitely, but it is also a delicious dessert. Listen to hear more about celebrating Pi Day.

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Math in 'Alice in Wonderland'

Literature Mathematics

Lewis Carroll’s 1865 fantasy novel, “Alice in Wonderland” is a beloved children’s book. The novel also comments on mathematics. Charles Dodgson, whose pen name was Lewis Carroll, originally invented the story to entertain his friends’ young daughters. Dodgson was himself a serious mathematician who lectured at Christ Church College in Oxford, England. When he put the story on paper to publish it, he ended up writing sections that poked fun at current mathematics, which he was worried were becoming increasingly abstract. Listen to the story to learn more about the mathematical references in “Alice in Wonderland.

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Current Event March 9, 2017

The Math Heroes of Hidden Figures

Earth and Space Science Gender Mathematics

During the space race between the United States and Russia, many of the NASA mathematicians who made space flight possible were women. Moreover, many of these important scientists were black women, which is significant, because segregation was still in full effect. Although white male engineers and astronauts have been the most highlighted in history, people are now celebrating the essential contributions of these female, African-American scientists, including the movie “Hidden Figures.” Listen to learn more about the black female scientists like Katherine Johnson and their important contributions to space travel.

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Current Event December 16, 2015

Learning Financial Literacy

Education Mathematics financial literacy

In San Quentin prison, inmates can learn about money management and investing while behind bars. The teacher of the class is serving a life sentence and has earned the nickname, “Wall Street.” He learned to read as well as to trade stocks while he was in prison. There are several business school and financial experts that volunteer with the class. Many of the inmates will need financial management skills as they re-enter the outside world. Listen to hear about this program that helps inmates be more successful when they are released.

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Current Event September 16, 2015

Cows and the Stock Market

Economics Mathematics

There is a phenomenon that drives everything from the stock market to orange juice prices. By taking the average of all guesses about something, you can collectively get the right answer. This was put to the test at a county fair using a cow named Penelope. People guessed the weight of a cow and the average of over 17,000 guesses was within 5 percent of Penelope’s actual weight. This story about the wisdom of crowds will help you explain how the stock market works.

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Current Event July 31, 2014

Why Doctors Use Probability and Play with Risk Over Time

Economics Mathematics

Many people make decisions based on the probability of a specific outcome. Every day, doctors have to decide to base their health care decisions on probability. Listen to this public radio story about how a man's health care choice went against probability.

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Losing Weight While You Sleep

Life Science Health Nutrition Mathematics Human body

People lose weight when sleeping, and much of that weight loss comes from merely breathing. Through a process of matter being recycled along with sweating while sleeping, people lose weight. However, the atoms and molecules involved are so small that it is hard to believe they are so powerful in this process. Listen to learn how this cycle works.

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Current Event July 25, 2014

Getting It Right: The Story of How Scientists Measured a Meter


The United States is one of only a handful of countries that doesn't use the metric system. Most of the world calculates distances in meters. The creation of the meter in 1792 was based on the need to agree on a uniform system of measurement. But the first time scientists tried to determine the length of a meter, they made some mistakes. Listen to this public radio story to learn why accuracy is necessary.

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Current Event January 30, 2014

Super Bowl Economics

Economics Mathematics

This year's Super Bowl will be held at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium—but many mistakenly believe it will be held in New York. This could have tremendous economic impact on New Jersey since business will flow to Manhattan rather than stay in New Jersey. Listen to this story to hear what the mayor of the host city has to say.

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Current Event January 3, 2014

Effect of Overpopulation Determined by Bet

Life Science Mathematics

There are over 7 billion people on Earth today, double the population 45 years ago. A famous bet was made between an economist and biologist to determine if a world at risk of overpopulation will adapt and survive. Listen to this story with students to learn the results.

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Current Event November 27, 2013

What are Fibonacci’s Numbers?

Literature Trade Mathematics

In life and in math class we use the numerals 0 through 9 every day. They are the basis of our financial system and shape the way we understand value. We have a young Italian mathematician named Leonardo da Pisa, nicknamed Fibonacci, to thank for this. In 1202 he published a book called “Book of Calculation” that introduced these numerals to Europe, replacing Roman numerals and the abacus once and for all. Listen to learn more about the man and concept behind Fibonacci and his numbers.

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Current Event October 31, 2013

The Income Gap, Illustrated with Candy Corn

Civics/Government Economics Elementary Mathematics

In the last 30 years the rich have become richer. Lower-income earners gained 18%, the middle class earned 40%, and the top 1% of wage earners gained 275%. What's a good way to illustrate to students how the gap as widened? Candy Corn! Listen to this story to hear an audio graph of the income gap. Then discuss with students what it means for an economy and society with a large income gap and possible alternatives to redistribute wealth more evenly.

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