Some of our Year 10s have had the opportunity to take part in a series of events called ‘Maths Unlocked’ by the University of East Anglia.

The first session involved UEA lecturer Dr Witty and PhD student Michael O’Brien. They presented problems through the ages. The first problem posed was the Bridges of Königsberg. The problem asks if the seven bridges of the city of Königsberg, formerly in Germany but now known as Kaliningrad and part of Russia, over the river Preger can all be crossed in a single trip without doubling back, with the additional requirement that the trip ends in the same place it began. Our students got straight to work on their mini whiteboards trying to solve the problem, but without success. It turns out that it is not possible. Students had the opportunity to look at and area of Maths called graph theory, which is not often studied at school but that is accessible and leads to lots of interesting mathematical problems. It gave them the chance to look at a number of problems about drawing diagrams without taking your pen off the paper. They soon got to grips with this new branch of Maths and could work out which problems were possible and which weren’t.

This lead on to a final problem where students were given a map of the UK. They had to try and colour different counties so that those that shared a border where in different colours. The challenge was to do this in as few colours as possible. This led to a discussion on the four-colour theorem which states that any map in a plane can be coloured using four colours in such a way that regions sharing a common boundary do not share the same colour. It was really interesting to learn about new areas of Maths and see their applications.

Thank you to Dr Witty and Michael O’Brien for running the session.

A couple of weeks later our group of students had the opportunity to visit the UEA. On arrival they had a walk around the campus and made their way to the University library.

First the students, along with those from other schools, brain stormed about the birthday paradox. The question was how many people do we need in a room to have at least a 50% chance of at least one pair sharing the same birthday? He gave a really interesting example of the Football World cup teams from 2014. Each squad had 23 player and of the 32 team, 16 of them had at least one pair of players who shared the same birthday. It turns out 23 is the key number here – although perhaps this is difficult to believe! This news piece on the BBC explains the concept really well: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-27835311

Dr Helen Crowley, lecturer in the UEA School of Mathematics, ran a session called “ How not to lose your mind”. During this session students had lots of fun. They were given hats and post it notes. Each student had a number to display on their hat and chest. The challenge was when the hats are mixed up how could they get their hat back by swapping it once with each student. This was a really interactive session with lots of fun and giggles. Our students were great demonstrating to the other students how to solve this problem.

The second session was led by Ben Sparks, a Mathematician, musician and public speaker. The session started with a discussion of where numbers came from and the history behind numbers. Starting with the natural numbers (counting numbers), then problems arose back in history that required division of whole numbers which did not result in a whole number answer, hence rational numbers were discovered. The concept of zero was discussed and then the introduction of negatives. It was fascinating to learn a bit more about the history of numbers. It was great to see our students join in discussions and contribute the fact that as more advancements are made in technology, so the need for more Maths increases.

The final speaker was Luthais McCash, a Research student at the UEA. He had an experiment to show about electromagnetism, whereby he had sand on a frequency-o-meter machine which was subjected to different frequencies. Students should have seen how the different frequencies and wavelengths affected the patterns created in the sand. Sadly, on this occasion the machine did not work well which was rather amusing to the audience! There was some throwing of balls, demonstrating F=ma, and also acceleration related to the speed of the ball and more – all sorts of Maths related to Physics as well.

A big thank you to the UEA for putting on such an interesting day, it really got our students thinking about Maths in the real world. Thanks also to Mrs Chalmers for organising the trip.

There will be one final session for the Year 10s back at Northgate where they will also get to meet some students who are studying Maths at university.