The Mathematical Association

Founded in 1871


In 1871 the first teachers' subject association to be formed in England was set up and named the 'Association for the Improvement of Geometrical Teaching'. The First Annual Meeting of the Association for the Improvement of Geometrical Teaching was held on Tuesday 17 January 1871 at University College, London. The President of the Association, Thomas Hirst, was in the chair and resolutions were passed to set out the organisation and operation of the Association. An invitation was extended to all mathematicians to prepare syllabuses for elementary geometry, containing their views of the principles which should be adopted in a new textbook to supersede Euclid.

The Second Annual Meeting of the 'Association for the Improvement of Geometrical Teaching' was held on 12 January 1872 at University College, London. The President of the Association, Thomas Hirst, delivered an address which began as follows:-
In opening the proceedings of this, the Second Annual Meeting of the Association for the Improvement of Geometrical Teaching, I am glad to be able to congratulate you on the decided progress which has been made during the past year towards the realisation of your views. The discussions recorded in English journals, and the reception given to recently published textbooks on geometry, unquestionably indicate that public opinion is far more inclined now than it was a few years ago to entertain the notion of an improved exposition of the elements of geometry. We are no longer warned that to touch that edition of Euclid to which, for more than a century, we have paid such literal homage, would be to ruin the teaching of geometry. On the contrary, it is now generally admitted that, without departing from the admirable exactitude and geometrical purity of Euclid's elements, we ought to be able, by judicious revision and extension, to bring them more into harmony with the scientific methods and the habits of thought of our day.
Although at this time the Association had no journal, nevertheless it published reports, about one per year, between 1871 and 1893. Nineteen of these were definitely published and there may have been one further report but no copy of it has been traced at present. The Association also published books. The elements of plane geometry Part I (Corresponding to Euclid Books I-II) was published by W Swan Sonnenschein and Co, London, in 1884. The text was prepared by a Committee appointed by the Association and the Preface explains the purpose of the book. Here is an extract from the Preface:-
The Association for the Improvement of Geometrical Teaching was formed in the year 1871, and published in the year 1875 a "Syllabus of Plane Geometry (corresponding to Euclid Books I-IV)." This Syllabus has received a considerable amount of favourable recognition in the hands of Teachers and others interested in the study of Geometry, as is proved by the fact that an edition of 3000 copies has recently been exhausted and, to meet a steadily continuing demand, a new edition has been published. It was felt, however, by many members of the Association, that in order to secure for the Syllabus more general consideration and acceptance, it was desirable that an authorised series of Proofs and Propositions contained in it should be issued, and accordingly at the Annual Meeting in January 1881, it was resolved: "That a sub-committee be appointed to draw up Proofs of the Propositions of the Syllabus of Plane geometry."

The result of the labours of the committee appointed in accordance with this resolution, extending over Books I and II of the Syllabus, was approved at a General Meeting of the Association, held on 20th March last, and is submitted to the public in the following pages.

The Association is desirous that it should be clearly understood that the present work is not offered as a section of a complete treatise on Elementary Geometry, but simply as an edition of a part of the Syllabus with the demonstrations supplied and suitable exercises inserted.
In 1894 the Association began publishing The Mathematical Gazette which was to succeed the annual reports which it had issued previously. The first part appeared in April 1894 and contained the papers: Edward Mann Langley, The eccentric circle of Boscovich; Alfred Lodge, On approximations and reductions; and John Sturgeon Mackay, The Greek geometers before Euclid. Let us say a little about Langley and Lodge, particularly their contributions to the Association.

Edward Mann Langley (22 January 1851 - 9 June 1933) was born in Buckden, educated at the Commercial School (later named the Bedford Modern School), the University of London, and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was eleventh Wrangler in 1878, the Senior Wrangler being Ernest Hobson and John Steggall coming second. Langley taught at Bedford Modern School from 1878 to 1918. He was Secretary of the Association for the Improvement of Geometrical Teaching (1885-1893) and a founder of The Mathematical Gazette being its editor (1894-95). He taught Eric Temple Bell who entered Bedford Modern School in 1898 and Bell wrote in Langley's Obituary in The Mathematical Gazette: "Every detail of his vigorous, magnetic personality is as vivid today as it was on the afternoon I first saw him."

Alfred Lodge (1854 - 1 December 1937) had seven brothers and one sister. Of his brothers Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge (1851-1940) became a famous physicist, and Sir Richard Lodge (1855-1936) became a professor of history. His sister Eleanor Constance Lodge was also a historian who became Vice-Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (1906-1921) and then Principal of Westfield College, University of London (1921-1931). Alfred Lodge studied at Horncastle Grammar School and Magdalen College, Oxford. He succeeded Joseph Wolstenholme as Professor of Pure Mathematics at the Royal Indian Engineering College at Cooper's Hill, near London, in 1889. In 1897 the Association for the Improvement of Geometrical Teaching changed its name to 'The Mathematical Association' and Lodge became the first President after this name change serving from 1897 to 1899.

The first Annual Meeting of the Mathematical Association was held at University College, Gower Street, London, on Saturday 15 January 1898 with Alfred Lodge as President. The Report in The Mathematical Gazette states:-

There were 24 members present. The Report of the Council for 1897 was read and adopted, and the elections of 46 new members of the Association were confirmed. The Rules, which had been revised, were discussed and passed, and the Treasurer's audited financial statement was accepted. After officers and council for 1898 had been elected, a paper on "Some Curiosities in Division" was read by E M Langley, M.A., and a paper by Prof H W Lloyd Tanner on "A Class of Algebraic Functions" was, in the absence of the author, read by the President. In consequence of the lateness of the hour the other papers were postponed.

Formal Presidential Addresses started with Professor George H Bryan, professor at the University College of North Wales and an authority on thermodynamics and aeronautics, in 1908 when he gave the address "The uses of mathematics and the training of the mathematical teacher."

For a list of all annual addresses of Presidents of The Mathematical Association, see THIS LINK.

For a list of all the Presidents of 'Association for the Improvement of Geometrical Teaching' and of 'The Mathematical Association', see THIS LINK.

An interesting legacy in 2010 led to the establishment of the '1729 Group'. Let us quote:-

In 2010, The Mathematical Association received a legacy of £1729. The number was chosen because of the fame bestowed upon it by the celebrated tale of Hardy's Taxi.  This gave rise to the notion of 'The 1729 Group'.

Membership is open to anyone giving a donation of a sum which is mathematically significant. For example, 1729 is the smallest positive integer which can be written as the sum of two cubes (of positive integers) in two essentially different ways:
1729=13 +123 =93 +1031729 = 1^{3} + 12^{3} = 9^{3} + 10^{3}.

The scheme was launched at the Annual General Meeting during the 2011 Annual Conference when David Acheson, then President, publicly handed over a cheque for £1089. Since then, there have been six more contributions of £1024, £1642, £3435, £1066, £561 and £1945. It is an exercise for the reader to work out the mathematical significance of each of these numbers.

Finally we give some details of The Mathematical Association at the present time (2020).

Objects

The objects of the Association shall be: (i) to effect improvements in the teaching and learning of mathematics and its applications; and (ii) to provide means of communication among students and teachers of mathematics and other interested persons.

Organisation

The Mathematical Association is run by members for members from its headquarters in Leicester and is managed by a Council of around 19 Mathematical Association members. Its aim is to conduct the business of the Association in accordance with the Memorandum of Association and the Articles of Association. The Council consists of the President, the Immediate Past President, the President Designate, the Chair of Council, the Secretary, the Treasurer, the chair of each of the Committees listed below and five members without office.

Committees of the Mathematical Association

Standing Committee of Council
Branches Committee
Teaching Committee
Conference Committee
Professional Development Committee
Publications Committee
Membership Committee
Publicity and Media Committee

Last Updated April 2020