“Everyday” maths brought to life at interactive sessions with author Rob Eastaway

“Everyday” maths brought to life at interactive sessions with author Rob Eastaway

2 March 2022

Mrs Ruth McKenna, Head of Maths

Do you wish you could win at Monopoly more regularly? If you need to tie your shoelace at the airport and are in a hurry to get to the gate, should you tie it whilst on the carpet or the travelator? These important life questions and more were the subject of two fabulous interactive talks delivered by Rob Eastaway, National Director of Maths Inspiration, on Monday 28 February. Rob is a seasoned speaker who has presented podcasts and radio shows, and authored or co-authored 12 books including “Why do buses come in threes?” and “Maths on the back of an envelope”.

To get a flavour of the two excellent sessions - one for Year 9 and Year 10 and the other for Year 11 and Lower Sixth - let’s hear from the students themselves:

“The Maths of Games – From Monopoly to Greed” by Caitlin, Year 10

To begin, Rob explained the difference between games where the outcome is determined by strategy (e.g. chess) vs by luck (e.g. snakes and ladders). He explored this further by getting volunteers Ellie and Alice to play the card game higher or lower, demonstrating that incorporating probability into our game strategies will help us make more successful decisions. Both won and were rewarded with delicious Freddos!

Another game involved 10 volunteers working together in an attempt to win £10. The person who writes down the highest number wins, although the higher their number, the lower the amount won as the prize is the original £10 divided by the highest number. This game is fantastic evidence of how strategy can earn you the most money. Had the volunteers worked together and each chosen the number 1, they would have each won £1. However, this outcome relies upon participants trusting one another as had one ‘greedy’ person chosen the number 2 they alone would have won £5.

Finally, Rob described exponential growth using the tale of a teenager earning money from her parents for doing two hours of chores per day for one month. Having agreed a wage of 1p on day one, with the amount doubling each day, we saw how the money rapidly built up to a huge daily rate of more than £1 million before the end of the month.

This talk was great fun and I hope that we can have more like this in the future.

“Maths and Intuition – I wasn’t expecting that!” by Léonie, Lower Sixth

Rob’s talk for Year 11 and Lower Sixth students uncovered the maths behind our gut feelings. He started by saying ‘getting it wrong makes you more interesting’, which many of us found to be true throughout the talk, as Rob built in practical situations and involved the audience, making it feel more like a conversation than a lecture. Rob incorporated Pythagoras’ theorem into a football match and guided us through creating equations to calculate the fastest way to reach your gate at an airport, whilst also covering Pascal’s triangle and Bayes' theorem.

Not only was the talk very interesting, it reminded us of the importance of maths in everyday life and just how many fascinating things maths can uncover.

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