CCST9017 Scientific and Technological Literacy
Hidden Order in Daily Life: A Mathematical Perspective

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]


Non-Permissible Combination:
CCST9037 Mathematics: A Cultural Heritage

Course Description

Although not obvious, mathematics actually permeates many areas of our modern society, affecting us fundamentally on an everyday basis. For example, the Human Genome Project, GPS systems, and mobile phones use mathematics extensively as well as other non-science matters such as financial investment, data encryption, and internet searching. Even voting systems, an important feature of our democracy, can be analyzed with the help of mathematics, enabling us to gain a deeper understanding of what is meant by fairness of a voting system or a social choice procedure and its limitations. Through exploring non-technically some mathematically rich daily life topics, this course aims to help students gain essential mathematical literacy for living in the 21st century. Students will learn the mathematical concepts and principles of things that they encounter in modern society, and learn how to handle and interpret numerical and other forms of mathematical data that affect their daily life.

* Note: Mathematics beyond the level of general school mathematics is not required. The focus of the course is on demonstrating analytical reasoning, formulating evidential and logical arguments, and presenting and communicating the coherent body of knowledge acquired.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate understanding of important applications of mathematics in our everyday life.
  2. Apply mathematical ideas and methods to decision making on everyday issues.
  3. Investigate the mathematical foundation of topics that are related to everyday life.
  4. Communicate daily life problems and solutions using appropriate mathematical terminology and good English.
  5. Solve real-life problems using mathematics and present the solutions using appropriate software.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Course will be offered twice:
Section 1 – First semester (Wed); Section 2 – First semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 12
Reading / Self-study 36
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 25
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 10
Assessment: Examination 1.5
Assessment: Assignments 30
Total: 138.5

Assessment: 70% coursework; 30% examination

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Written assignment 35
Mini project and group presentation 35
Examination 30

Required Reading

  • Bryan, K., & Leise, T. (2006). The $25,000,000,000 eigenvector: The linear algebra behind Google. Siam Review, 48(3), 569-581.
  • Gura, E. -Y., & Maschler, M. (2008). Insights into game theory: An alternative mathematical experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Chap. 3]
  • Haigh, J. (2003). Taking chances: Winning with probability (New ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Chap.14]
  • Lysyanskaya, A. (2008). How to keep secrets safe. Scientific American, 299(3), 88-95.
  • Shermer, M. (2008). The doping dilemma. Scientific American, 298(4), 82-89. From http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-doping-dilemma
  • Taylor, A. D., & Pacelli, A. M. (2008). Mathematics and politics: Strategy, voting, power and proof (2nd ed.). New York: Springer. [Chap. 1]

Recommended Reading

  • Averbach, B., Brewer, P., & Chein, O. (1980). Mathematics: Problem solving through recreational mathematics. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.
  • Cipra, B. (1993-2015). What’s happening in the mathematical sciences (Vols. 1-10). Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society.
  • Devlin, K. J., & Lorden, G. (2007). The numbers behind NUMB3RS: Solving crime with mathematics. New York: Plume.
  • Gigerenzer, G. (2002). Calculated risks: How to know when numbers deceive you. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • MacCormick, J. (2012). Nine algorithms that changed the future: The ingenious ideas that drive today’s computers. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Körner, T. W. (2008). Naive decision making: Mathematics applied to the social world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Pólya, G. (2004). How to solve it: A new aspect of mathematical method. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Recommended Websites


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor T.W. Ng
Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2241 5631
Email: ntw@maths.hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor T.W. Ng
Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2241 5631
Email: ntw@maths.hku.hk
Dr Z. Hua
Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2859 1994
Email: huazheng@maths.hku.hk
Dr S.P. Yung
Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science
Tel: 2859 1992
Email: spyung@hku.hk