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Maths Jam 2014

November 2, 2014

November the 1st to the 2nd saw the annual mathsjam ‘conference’. It’s a great gathering of maths enthusiasts and this year was the second time I’ve gone. You can read about my first trip herehere and here.

I only stayed for the first day but saw lots of great things. I’ll highlight some here. I don’t intend to go into as much detail as last year, partly because Colin (@colinthemathmo) prefers it that way but also because my notes aren’t as comprehensive. I’ll go into a little more detail on the ones that appealed to me.

If any of them appeal to you, I’d encourage you to contact the person named and ask them about it!

Apologies if any names are wrong. Feel free to correct me.


Ross Atkins

This sequence 1,3,2,6,8,4…. has the properties that no number is repeated and the sum of the first n digits is a multiple of n. How far can you get? Try writing the list out with 1,2,3,4,5 underneath and look carefully.

Matt Parker

There’s a maths problem where you are revealed a number of options one at a time. In each case you can stick or keep going. You don’t know the order and if you choose to continue, you can’t go back to a previous number. Matt took us through some possible strategies in his usual amusing style.

Richard Gould looked at double pendulums. Well over my head I’m afraid!

Noel-Ann Bradshaw

Talking about the app Match Dots (which I already had!) and where there’s links to graph theory such as Hamiltonian paths and trees. She also mentioned a few more apps you may be interested in: Red Donkey, Hex, Quell, Circle the dot.

Michael Gibson

Optimal Finger Counting. Is there a better way of counting on our fingers? In short, yes, probably but it’d take some practise!

Alison Kiddle

Reintroduced us to SOMA cubes but specifically a way of making them out of origami. Very cool!


I’m afraid this lost me a little but it was to with cutting a banner and other things.

Dave Gale

My talk was about shuffling cards but that’ll be a separate blog post sometime.


Adam Atkinson

Showed us a ‘proof’ that a right angle can be equal to a right angle plus theta. He hinted that there may be something fishy going on 🙂

Martin Whitworth

Martin’s a food scientist and is interested in being able to see inside cakes without actually cutting them. It involved shooting X rays from different angles to get various projections and using maths (which lost me) to eliminate fuzziness and recreating the original image. It was very cool and he finished by showing us what happens when you use the same technique on a whole oven in a medical CAT scanner. There were lots of oohs 😉


This one is still bugging me. Here’s a sequence. Noel revealed a few at a time and then asked us to predict what came next. We were generally wrong. Any ideas? 1,2,4,6,16,12,64,24,36,…


Using Microsoft Excel to make pictures and other interesting patterns. Quite impressive considering it’s Excel!

John Bibby

This is too hard to describe in a blog post but involved us standing up, with arms above our head, angled in different directions. Then rotate your arms and imagine the locus of the imagined intersection of your arms. Or something like that!


Was refuting the various wobbly-table theorems. Interesting as I’d always taken it as reasonable.


Had some very pretty and clever ways of cutting a circle up so that each piece was equal in size. And no, he didn’t just use wedges.

Francis Hunt

Used a piano keyboard and frequencies to find log 3. Bit weird but quite fun.


Linked discriminants and resultants with matrices. I got a bit lost (again).

Peter Rowlett

Was talking about the maths arcades at universities as a way of engaging students in different ways. There are a variety of games played and the link should take you to explanations of some of them. He was also requesting variations on Noughts and Crosses and Nim. He talked about these with myself and Colin Beveridge so you can hear about them in the next episode of Wrong but Useful. One variant was using 15 sticks, each player can take 1, 2 or 3 sticks. The player with an odd number at the end wins.

Geoff Morley

Making squares from squares and squaring a torus. That’s about as much as I can tell you as it was beyond me.

Matt Pep

Talked about Zombie Dice (a Steve Jackson dice game) and the probabilities behind it. You’re a zombie and need to collect brains while avoiding shot guns. I played a game after the talk (and won) so it’s officially a good game 😉 The ideas were very nice and I can actually see this being useful in Peter’s maths arcade.


Andrew MacDonald talking about entropy and efficiency of sending data. I think this was good but I couldn’t follow it. Sorry.

Martyn Parker

Selected at random. If you have a circle with an inscribed regular triangle, and select a chord at random, what’s the probability that the length of the chord is longer than the edge of the triangle? He showed three convincing ways that the probability could be 1/3, 1/2 or 1/4

Julia Haggis

Brief introduction to infinities and specifically countably infinite. Then asked, if you draw infinity signs on a piece of paper (optionally, an infinite piece of paper) can you draw an uncountably infinite number or just a countably infinite number of them?

Katie Steckles

Talked about the awesome project megamenger

Matt Parker

Reminded us all that we should investigate Martin Gardiner’s work and how he was essentially the inspiration for mathsjam.

John Bradshaw

Had a digital version of a double pendulum to create harmonic motion and, more importantly, very pretty pictures.


Wow. Tonnes of maths and plenty to be thinking about after just one day. Looking forward to next year and maybe being able to stay for two days although I don’t know if my brain could cope! Thanks to Colin Wright, Matt Parker, James Grime, Katie Steckles, Christian Perfect and any others involved in organising it.


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