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NAGTY @ Warwick 2003 - Maths in Action

Originally published 11 August 2003

I am on the Mathematics In Action course at the NAGTY @ Warwick Summer School. We have been studying different topics in maths and seeing how they relate to real life. Some of the topics we have covered in the past week include discovering Diophantine Pythagorean Triples (which are integers that can form the three sides of a triangle), Euclid’s Algorithms (which are three formulae that work out that work out Pythagorean Tripples) and Modulo Arithmetic (which is basic sums in different bases). For example, instead of using the numbers 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 (base 10) to work out sums, you use the numbers 0,1,2,3,4 (base 5). Although these topics may sound difficult, they are not as hard as they first appear. All the work has been stimulating and fun.

So far this week, our course has covered special relativity (a theory proved by Einstein) and mathematical modelling, where we learnt how mathematicians make models of situations to work out what is most likely to happen next, or the best approach to take. For example, in the SARS outbreak, mathematicians were called in to try and work out how bad the epidemic would be and how far it would spread.

All of our work has been punctuated by us playing normal pen and paper games, and working out winning strategies. So think twice before challenging a member of the Omega maths group to a game!

Not all our time has been spent bent over our pages working out solutions to complicated formulae though. Last Friday the maths team braved the traditional English weather and went on a trip to Drayton Manor Theme Park, where we did our work. Honest!

Michaela Goff (13)