MathsJams are gatherings for like-minded mathematically inclined people with an interest in problem solving and puzzles. The monthly meetings are held in various locations, but the weekend events in previous years were such huge successes that they've become a regular fixture. The weekend consists of lightning talks, long breaks and plenty of chances to socialise and share your favourite maths.
Inspired by the Gathering For Gardner events, MathsJam is a chance to share, discuss, solve or be confounded by a vast array of mathematical puzzles in a friendly, informal and inspirational atmosphere. We're not looking for Earth-shattering maths, nor new discoveries, nor anything exceptionally deep or meaningful. We're looking for things that are surprising, unexpected, elegant, neat, cool, or whatever just intrigues you.
From Colin Wright:
Shortly before Easter I was privileged to attend the Gathering For Gardner, an event that celebrates the continuing life and work of Martin Gardner. The gathering brings together people with an interest in magic, puzzles, recreational maths, and the connection between them.
Everyone at the Gathering is amazingly generous, sharing tricks, problems, puzzles, and I learned so much, it was fantastic.
The week after Easter I was at the British Congress for Maths Education (BCME) and over lunch we were swapping puzzles and problems. David Bedford said, "Why don't we have a Gathering in the UK?"
I replied "Indeed - why don't we organise one." and so the MathsJam was born.
James and Matt were handy, so over coffee we tried to work out why it couldn't work, and failed. We thought about what would have to be done, and how we would have to do it, and it seemed like it could work.
And it should be fun.
And so it started. We're just a bunch of friends, interested in maths, wanting to share what we know, and in return be entertained and intrigued by others who share our love of fun in maths.
We're not professional events organisers, and we're not intending this to be a formal "training" or "educational" conference or event. It's just a gathering of people who share in enthusiasm for recreational maths.
We're not looking for Earth-shattering maths, nor new discoveries, nor anything exceptionally deep or meaningful. We're looking for things that are surprising, unexpected, elegant, neat, cool, or whatever just intrigues you.
Can you give the question in 2 minutes, but have people scratching their head for days? No doubt someone will find the answer quickly, but if a few are puzzled, then it's a good one.
So here are some examples - don't expect them all to have clear answers, or even to be well-defined!
What proportion of numbers don't have the digit 9?
If a bacterium divides in two with probability p and dies the rest of the time, starting with one bacterium, what is the probability that the population dies out entirely?
In how many ways can you dissect a square into congruent pieces that all touch the centre point?
Why you should come to the MathsJam Gathering
Students: By looking at problems, puzzles, games and other challenges you can gain a wealth of techniques and materials for approaching problems, both real-world and in your studies.
Teachers: You'll get a vast selection of stimulating starters to stretch and challenge even the most demanding students, an awareness of how to encourage the most able students to enrich their learning of mathematics, and a variety of techniques to lead students to develop their thinking skills and to question and work with others collaboratively to solve mathematical problems.
Professionals: Puzzles and games form a microcosm in which we can explore problem-solving techniques and analytical styles.
Everyone else: It should be a fun, stimulating event that let you connect, or re-connect, with your love of maths!
Some writeups of the gathering:
MathsJam Conference 2015, by Peter Rowlett for MSOR Connections
A Non-mathematician at the MathsJam Weekend, November 2014, by Rachael Wright
The MathsJam team is headed by Colin Wright, with some advisers to assist.
Colin has a Ph.D. from Cambridge and has worked as a research mathematician, and done research in computing. His day job is developing systems to do the maritime version of Air Traffic Control, and in his "free time" he travels around the world giving lectures on how and why maths can be interesting, fun, useful and even on occasion, exciting.
James Grime has a PhD in Pure Maths from York University, where he stayed on for a time as a lecturer and researcher. James has also worked for Cambridge University and the Millennium Mathematics Project as the Enigma Project Officer. In his spare time he has many hobbies, including juggling, unicycling and other circus skills.
Possibly the only person to hold the prestigious title of London Mathematical Society Popular Lecturer while simultaneously having a sold-out comedy show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Matt is always keen to mix his two passions of mathematics and stand-up. Originally a maths teacher from Australia, Matt now lives in London and works both as a stand-up comedian and a maths communicator. This involves spreading his love of maths via books, radio programmes, TV shows, newspapers, school visits, live comedy shows and occasionally harassing people in the street. Matt is also the Public Engagement in Mathematics Fellow at Queen Mary University of London.
Katie Steckles is a mathematician based in Manchester, who gives talks and workshops on different areas of maths. She finished her PhD in 2011, and since then has talked about maths in schools, at science festivals, on BBC radio, at music festivals, as part of theatre shows and on the internet. She enjoys doing puzzles, solving the Rubik's cube and baking things shaped like maths.
Rob Eastaway is an author who is active in the popularisation of mathematics. He has a degree in Engineering and Management Science from the University of Cambridge, and was made President of the UK Mathematical Association for 2007/2008. He is also a former puzzle-writer for the New Scientist Magazine. Rob is the director of Maths Inspiration, a national programme of maths lectures for teenagers which involves some of the UK's leading maths speakers.