19.09.18 : Maths Week Scotland

The Mathematics Department at St Leonards celebrated Maths Week Scotland, from 10-16 September, with a variety of activities and events.

On Tuesday, 11 September 45 Year 12 students took the short stroll from St Leonards to the Mathematical Institute of the University of St Andrews to receive a lecture from Dr James Threlfall on the Mathematics of the Sun. Dr Threlfall spoke about his research area, Solar Theory, and gave students a taster of how mathematics is used to model reality and make predictions.

Following this the group were given private access to some of the ancient mathematical texts and rare manuscripts which the university has in its collection. Students examined work from famous mathematicians who they will stumble across in their studies, from St Andrews local James Gregory, who collaborated with Sir Isaac Newton, to the inventor of the logarithm, John Napier, to the prince of mathematics, Carl Friedrich Gauss. Galileo, Euclid, Euler, and the Fifer, Mary Somerville also made an appearance.

Through discussion with university staff, students saw the rich and varying history of Mathematics, and found that St Andrews was, and very much remains, at the vanguard and forefront of mathematical thought and development. We are very grateful to the Mathematical Institute and the Rare Books Librarians, in particular Mrs Elizabeth Henderson for leading the group through these informative and enriching sessions.

The following day our 60-strong Year 10 cohort spent their double maths lesson competing in a Scottish-themed maths relay. The atmosphere throughout the competition was excellent, as students worked in teams to solve a variety of mathematical problems, racing each other for points. Congratulations go to the winning team, Lovelace (named after the female mathematician Ada Lovelace) with students, Martin, Essil, Archie and Zoe as its members. It was wonderful to see the hall buzzing with Year 10 pupils doing and talking about Maths!

To finish, on Friday our MYP Year 9 mathematicians were treated to a lecture from Dr Jonathan Fraser from the Mathematical Institute at the University of St Andrews. Dr Fraser delivered an extremely engaging, thought-provoking lecture on Fractals. This is one of Dr Fraser's areas of expertise, and students particularly enjoyed considering and challenging his controversial claim that a circle, or indeed any typical 2D shape, does not actually exist in the real world!

Leaving students to ponder this, Dr Fraser went on to explore what a Fractal is, where it might appear in everyday life and how one might begin to look into its properties like dimension. Throughout the session, students got a sense of Dr Fraser’s passion for the subject, and it is hoped that this group cling to his message: always wonder why. We are extremely grateful to Dr Fraser for coming in and giving us an idea of what a mathematician does.

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