Problems, primes and proof by chocolate

Fifty Year 12 boys attended an entertaining and informative Mathematics day at the Institute of Education in London.

The day comprised five lectures on Mathematics away from the A Level syllabus, which looked at:

  • How Mathematics is used to help protect people from avalanches, explaining how avalanches are formed and how they move once they start.
  • The way in which airlines set ticket prices for flights, focusing on the balance struck between economy and business passengers in order to maximise profit. The secret of getting cheap tickets was also revealed.
  • Infinity and proof. By common consent, Dr David Acheson of Jesus College, Oxford, gave the best of the lecture of the day: an off-beat look at both Pure and Applied Mathematics, the highlight of which was a superb “proof by chocolate”.
  • Lateral thinking – a presentation with an array of problems and puzzles, which kept everyone thoroughly entertained and amused.
  • The mysteries of prime numbers. The day’s main speaker Professor Marcus du Sautoy, of Oxford University, examined the fundamental importance of primes and highlighted the prizes awaiting anyone who can solve the biggest problem in Mathematics.

“It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and the Sixth-Formers who attended got an excellent insight into Mathematics beyond the classroom,” said QE teacher Timothy Dalton.