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Maths Inspiration

24 December 2019

On Thursday 28th November, 9 girls spent the afternoon at the Maths Inspiration Trip held at the Bristol Hippodrome. We were given the opportunity to listen to inspiring maths speakers, presenting mathematics in the context of exciting, real-world applications

Firstly, we were lucky enough to be warmly welcomed and introduced to the afternoon by the “stand-up mathematician” Matt Parker who was a maths teacher but is now a best-selling author and part of the 3 million subscriber Numberphile YouTube Channel. He introduced and coherently joined each of the three engaging and inspiring talks together.

Our first speaker was Dr. Aoife Hunt, who works at a consultancy that specialises in analysing the movements of people. Dr. Hunt explained to us how she uses maths to solve problems and figure out the patterns of large crowds at high profile events such as Wembley Stadium, Heathrow Airport, and Glastonbury Festival. Dr Hunt showed us the connection between the maths we learn (such as speed-distance graphs, quadratic equations, and normal and logarithmic distribution graphs) and how this relates to the knowledge required for crowd flow calculations. Some of these calculations included building computer simulations to predict what to do in an emergency evacuation and how long people spend on the toilet!

We were then fortunate enough to hear from David Acheson, the best-selling author of “The Calculus Story” who presented a talk on, “Pi, Pizza and the Electric Guitar”. His talk centred around the idea that maths is all around us and he demonstrated how pi could be found in the kitchen and calculus at Christmas. After he demonstrated an intriguing experiment relating to vibration frequency, we were lucky enough to be serenaded by a song.

Our final speaker was Ben Sparks – a mathematician, musician, and speaker based at the University of Bath. He spoke (and also performed a song on his guitar) about the beauty and magic of mathematics – titled: Windmills of Your Mind. Discussions took place around, Pythagoras, the Spiral of Theodorus and the Mandelbrot Set and he related these applications to the pattern of a sunflower.

As our afternoon drew to a close, we finished with several Q&As from all our speakers and a maths challenge (having to calculate the number of seconds which have passed since 1970). This trip was not just a mathematical stimulus for us but a great opportunity to see leaders in their fields demonstrate both their passion and application of maths within their real-life jobs. We were all inspired, fascinated and intrigued to find out more and are grateful for the opportunity we were given to attend this trip. We would highly recommend students to take up this opportunity if it comes around again.

By Bethany Ede, Year 12

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