GCSE Maths in Action

GCSE Maths in Action

On Wednesday 20 November, Fourth Year maths pupils visited the Emmanuel Centre in London where they enjoyed many inspiring and entertaining talks. Five great mathematicians spoke to us about their work life and how mathematics is used in our everyday life.

The first speaker was mathematician and a communicator James Grimes. He talked about how messages and photos are transmitted on the internet, and the secret messages that tell a film studio when you are sharing movies illegally. He also talked about secret machines and codes used in the Second World War by the Nazis to send messages to each other and how mathematicians and officers like John Tiltman and Bill Tutte managed to crack the Enigma and the Lorenz code which prevented many deaths. Last but not least, he told us about the influential Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr who created radio controlled torpedoes by creating a frequency hopping signal that cannot be trapped or jammed.

Our second speaker was Aimi Elias. She is a software developer and her talk was on pixels and apps that we use every day. She explained to us how the “Age app” works and how all the filters on Snapchat and Instagram work.

The third mathematician we met was Dr Aoife Hunt who talked about the movement of crowds. Dr Hunt works for big companies including those that organise Glastonbury Festival and made Wembley Stadium, and she even helped in the building of Heathrow Airport. Dr Hunt is looking at how quickly people can evacuate and how much time they spend doing different activities like passing security checks. She taught us some formulas like how the flow equals the number of people over time. Another interesting thing Dr Hunt told us is about her ‘toilet paper’ –  her study about how much time people spend in the toilet!

After Dr Hunt we had a short lecture by Paul Harrison who is a maths teacher. He lectured us on exam technique and preparations. After that we had a lunch break which was followed by our fourth speaker, Matthew Scroggs: he applied some mathematical thinking to PAC-Man and other games. Matt also showed us some 2, 3 and even 4-dimensional games and how they work. He used some famous puzzles to explain those games to us. Two of those puzzles were the seven bridges of Königsberg and the Chinese postman problem. A very interesting fact about Mr Scroggs is that he studied at Oxford, then went on to UCL and now he is studying at Cambridge.

Last for the day was Alex Bellos. He is a famous author and broadcaster – you may have seen some of his puzzles in the Monday edition of the Guardian newspaper. His talk was mainly about puzzles, demonstrations and mathematical conundrums. Alex talked about the famous handcuff problem, the box of calissons problem and many others which was a great relaxing last talk. After his talk, I managed to have a few words with him and even bought one of his books, Alex Through the Looking Glass which I highly recommend especially if you study or you are going to study maths at A Level.

Everyone really enjoyed the great day we had and it was surely an experience we will remember our whole lives. I’d like to take the opportunity to give special thanks to Cerys Bradley who was a great host of the event and to Caterham School’s maths department and especially to Mrs Griffiths, Mrs Parker and Mr Griffiths who gave us that incredible chance of learning from some of the best mathematicians in England.

Manol R, Fourth Year

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