Professor helps students figure out how maths makes the world work

Stem students from High Tunstall College of Science and head of its maths faculty Angela Tait, front.
Stem students from High Tunstall College of Science and head of its maths faculty Angela Tait, front.

A man who has helped millions of people understand the subject of maths has helped inspire the next generation of students.

Marcus du Sautoy is the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the Oxford University and is also a Fellow of New College.

Professor Marcus du Sautoy gets one of the students to join in his lecture.

Professor Marcus du Sautoy gets one of the students to join in his lecture.

In addition to his work as a speaker, he has penned the top selling mathematics book The Music of Primes and What We Cannot Know, with his face familiar to viewers of the BBC series The Story of Maths and listeners to maths programmes on BBC radio.

The TED talk leader and man who put together a presentation on why David Beckham chose the number 23 as his squad number also received an OBE for services to science in the 2010 New Year’s Honours List.

Now he has passed on his enthusiasm for the subject to students from High Tunstall College of Science.

He was greeted at the school by head boy Belal El-Mashharawi and head girl Niamh Hogan before he spent a morning meeting students and visiting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem) classes.

Marcus enabled all people who attended our lecture to understand the power of mathematics and its use in our day to day life.

Mark Tilling

He went on to lead mini-style lectures, before he took to the stage at the school’s annual Stem lecture, held in the Borough Hall, hosted for the third year running.

The event brought together 33 schools and colleges, as Professor du Sautoy explained the survival of Cicadas, an insect which stays underground for up to 17 years, when they resurface they sing loudly, mate, eat, lay eggs then die.

He described how Cicadas only resurface on a prime number, likely to avoid predators, to get across the message “If you know your maths, you survive in this world.”

Professor du Sautoy also shared his interest in number patterns and he engrossed the audience by playing Marcus’ Number Mysteries Lottery.

Professor Marcus du Sautoy with head girl Niamh Hogan and head boy  Belal El-Mashharawi.

Professor Marcus du Sautoy with head girl Niamh Hogan and head boy Belal El-Mashharawi.

He later encouraged the children in the audience to get involved by playing ‘Lemming musical chairs’ to explain the Lemming mass suicide myth.

Following the lecture he took part in a question and answer session, which saw pupils ask him questions about his background and what inspired him to become a mathematician.

Organisers say the lecture was a huge success and enjoyed by all who attended.

Mark Tilling, the school’s headteacher said: “Marcus enabled all people who attended our lecture to understand the power of mathematics and its use in our day to day life.

“It inspired me to see students age 10 to 18 really getting why maths is so important.”

Previous guest speakers at High Tunstall College of Science’s STEM lectures have included Helen Sharman OBE, and Lord Professor Robert Winston.

Plans are already being made for next year’s talk.

Mr Tilling added: “The Annual Stem lecture is an exciting day in our academic calendar.

“We were pleased to welcome Professor Marcus du Sautoy to the college.”