It All Adds Up! – Maths Girls Conference at the Institute of Mathematics, Oxford

Mathematics Educational Visit

Twelve Year 10 mathematicians attend a conference at Oxford University

On Tuesday 8th January 2019, twelve year 10 girls from Wycombe High School left school at nine o’clock, accompanied by Mr Houston and Mrs Miller. Forty minutes later, they arrived at Oxford University for an all-girls maths conference, which would last the whole school day.

All of the events throughout the day took place in the Oxford Maths Institute, a building named after Sir Andrew Wiles KBE, FRS, a mathematician and professor at Oxford who proved Fermat’s Last Theorem, a simple, easy to understand theorem that was famous for being impossibly difficult to prove – at least until 1995, when Andrew Wiles published the first ever successful proof.

The first event of the day was a fascinating speech from Sammie Buzzard, a climatologist and mathematician working with melting ice and rising sea levels. She spoke on how to prove that climate change was happening, and talked about the threat it posed to humans and other life forms, as well as telling the students about her day to day job – which included travelling to Antarctica! Another aspect of her talk was a hugely helpful guide on how she had moved forward from GCSE maths, to A level and then to studying maths at university.

After the speech, our next two activities were more interactive ones. First, we had a workshop on repetition in maths, which focused on the many patterns in mathematics, and how we can discover, investigate and use them. Next, we had a problem-solving workshop, with numerous challenging, confusing puzzles!

The next activity, after a forty-five minute break for lunch, was an interactive plenary, with the focus on taking maths after GCSE – firstly at A level, and then to university and the hundreds of career paths that involve maths, whether using it focally, such as a statistician or professor, or in a more peripheral manner, such as law or business.

Finally, the last event of the day was a hugely interesting speech from a statistician on how companies and newspapers can manipulate numbers and statistics, and how we can identify when and how they are doing so, and also on evaluating risk using statistics.

Katherine Benatar, Year 10, Austen 4

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