13 November 2017

MathsJem at MathsJam

It was with some trepidation that I travelled up to Staffordshire on Saturday morning to attend my first ever MathsJam annual gathering. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I'm a regular attendee of maths education events, but this was different... I feared that I was in way over my head.

If you're not familiar with MathsJam, it's actually a monthly event which is run all over the world. On the second-to-last Tuesday of every month, maths enthusiasts get together (often in a pub) to play games, do puzzles, that kind of thing. Do check out the website to find your nearest MathsJam - there are loads in the UK. Once a year, MathsJammers get together for an annual gathering which, as I have now discovered, is utterly brilliant.

For most of the weekend, all 175ish attendees are based in one room, listening to a series of five minute talks about anything and everything. I reckon I understood around two thirds of the maths in the talks (ok, maybe more like a half...) but it was fine that some of the talks were a tad too advanced for me. They were still really interesting. I can't list all my favourites here but they included Zoe Griffiths ('A discourse on e'), Matthew Scroggs ('Big Ben Strikes Again'), Adam Townsend ('Stop! (or, using maths to pass your driving test)'), Alison Clarke ('Stupid Units'), Dave Gale ('Catchphrase and Coffee') and Katie Steckles ('Sheeran Numbers').
Around the edge of the room there were all sorts of geeky awesome things going on, including a Rubik's Cube solving robot, loads of maths games and puzzles, a table full of competitions, and an incredible selection of maths cakes. There were so many competitions (designed by attendees) that there was a competition competition (a competition to find the best competition). Bonkers, but delightful.

I absolutely loved the evening entertainment. I enjoyed drinks at the bar with my friends Mariana, Tim and Ed, and it was nice to catch up with the FMSP team. After dinner (the food was excellent!) we had the opportunity to get involved in an amazing selection of games and activities, all brought along by attendees. The evening also featured the MathsJam Jam which was my favourite part of the whole weekend! We basically just sat round singing maths songs... it was bloody brilliant. The lyrics were genius. I absolutely loved it and can't wait to do it again next year. Check out the songbooks here, and a couple of extracts below...

The next morning we had more talks, and by then I felt totally at home. The diversity of attendees was amazing, ranging from teenage maths enthusiasts to retired professors. The atmosphere was incredibly friendly and inclusive. I absolutely recommend it to anyone who enjoys maths. I can see why people come from so far away to attend the MathsJam annual gathering, and why they come back year after year.

I must say a huge thank you to the wonderful Colin Wright (@ColinTheMathmo), who does a superb job of organising the event, and to everyone else who was involved in running it. It was lovely to meet so many new people and to catch up with a few familiar faces. I can't wait to go again next year.