Saturday, 2 April 2016

A Mathematician's Holiday - Prologue.

One of the first activities that got me into outreach was joining Marcus' Marvellous Mathemagicians (M3), which was started in 2008 by Marcus du Sautoy. The idea was that hundreds of schools contact Marcus every year to give presentations to their kids, but unfortunately he simply doesn't have the time to answer all the requests. Thus, myself and a number of other undergraduates and graduates go out to schools and take a number of fun mathematical workshops
Multiple Oxford scientists coming out in force at the Newbury Science Festival
As part of M3, I've been up and down the country giving maths workshops, over to Ireland and Wales, and presented at numerous science festivals across the country.

However, perhaps the best experience I've ever had was when myself, Will Binzi and Dan Martin were invited to tour around the Dulwich Colleges of China and South Korea and demonstrate mathematics to all the kids out there.
From left to right: Dan, Will and myself enjoying the view from the Great Wall.
During our two weeks out there we travelled to Beijing, Suzhou, Shanghai, Zhuhai and Seoul. By the end of the two weeks we were of course exhausted but extremely happy because our workshops had gone down so well.
We presented in classrooms and theatres. The Dulwich college kids were great audiences.
Specifically, because this was a very special tour we decided to write a brand new presentation for the Dulwich students. The presentation was called A Mathematician's Holiday and collected eight different problems that you might come across whilst planning and presenting on such an international tour.
When we came back we decided to film the presentation so it can be used by anybody. The videos can either be found on YouTube, iTunes U or through the University of Oxford's Podcasts page. Over the next 8 weeks I will be presenting each video and discussing any particular techniques that we found aided us in our presenting the workshop.

Crucially, because we were taking this tour on the road, we had to make sure all the props were light, transportable, easily fixable, reproducible, or cheap to buy. In the end we simply used:
  • rope;
  • plastic bottles;
  • bears;
  • a t-shirt;
  • a jumper;
  • three hold alls; and
  • a blow up ring.
As a final note on the videos, they're pretty low energy. Normally we would have been giving this presentation in front of 30-50 excitable kids. Here we had 6 sixth-form students and a doctoral researcher, not exactly our prime demographic, but it had to do!

We begin next time by organising the tour!

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