Exploring the role of Mathematics outside the classroom

Sixth-Formers explored how Mathematics solves everyday challenges at a number of special lectures this term.

One of the days, attended by 56 Year 12 boys, included a session with a Senior Examiner on common pitfalls in examinations and how to develop good exam strategies.

""The lectures at the Institute of Education encompassed a broad range of topics including:

  • How to make energy plans that add up, David Mackay (Regius Professor of Engineering, Cambridge) (pictured)
  • Bad Stats – what they don’t tell you on the news, Michael Blastland (writer and broadcaster)
  • Ancient Puzzles and Modern Solutions – what the Greeks did for us, Jason Lotay (UCL)
  • Fighting disease with Mathematics, Sara Jabbari (Birmingham)
  • Invisible in the Storm – mathematics and forecasting wild weather, Ian Roulstone (Surrey).

“Each of the lectures was inspiring in its own way and encouraged the boys to delve deeper into the topics they found most engaging on the day,” said Wendy Fung, Assistant Head of Mathematics. “They’re a very good way of introducing branches of Maths which are not covered as part of the A-level syllabus.”

QE participant Paavan Sawjani said: “The application of calculus to Biology was really interesting because they’re topics that are not normally linked together.”

""Akash Ruparelia was inspired by Professor Mackay’s energy lecture: “It has made me look into the energy industry more closely, because it showed me how the energy crisis could potentially be solved by Maths.” 

A further 50 boys from Year 11 had an instructive afternoon at the Maths Inspiration Show at the Palace Theatre in London. The show included three interactive talks from some of the UK’s most engaging Maths speakers:

  • Hugh Hunt (Department of Engineering, Cambridge): Bouncing Bombs and Boomerangs
  • Hannah Fry (Centre for Spatial Analysis, UCL): The Hidden Connections
  • Colin Wright (Department of Maths, Keele): Patterns and Predictions.

Dr Hunt demonstrated the principles behind rotating objects using boomerangs and a wobble board. Dr Fry showed how to detect crime by using numerical patterns in apparently random events and Dr Wright juggled throughout his lecture whilst explaining the mathematics behind the skill.

“This event included a lively Q&A session,” said Miss Fung. “The boys were able to ask the panellists anything they wanted and clearly enjoyed finding out how Maths can be used in a variety of contexts.”

“I found out about areas of Maths that I didn’t even realise were Maths at all!” said Craig Robertson; “It’s amazing how Maths is everywhere,” added Aditya Ramachandran.