Dara O Briain: School of Hard Sums – making maths sexy.

Today’s studio session with Oxford University Professor Marcus du Sautoy – one of the great minds behind TV show Dara O Briain: School of Hard Sums (starts tomorrow night on Dave), was all about maths. And as Marcus pointed out, maths are everywhere! If that fills you with fear, you’re not alone. Nearly a quarter of us have no confidence doing sums and yet over a third of us use maths in our jobs.

But is it really that hard? Or are we just being lazy? You’d never get folks freely admitting to being illiterate so why are we so willing to label ourselves as “mathematically challenged”? Countries like India and China encourage their youth to use their brains and learn the language of mathematics, the lyrics of logic, the sounds of sequence, and you’d never hear them admit defeat to the world of numbers & digits. Maths is the key to making and saving money in this world and while some cultures realise that, others (ours) don’t.

We seem to have a cultural crisis on our hands. It’s so common for one to broadly declare “I don’t do maths…”, “Me and numbers = oil and water…”, but maths is all around us, it’s everywhere we go (hmm, sounds familiar). It’s behind every Smartphone, it raises it’s cheeky head during all those shopping trips, it even makes a behind the scenes appearance on radio & TV (how else does it all run to time?).

It’s not a case of creativity verses mathematics. In fact, one has to be pretty creative in order to get their head around the structures, science and systems contained within maths. It’s not just about picking a side of the brain and sticking to it. Folks out there will proudly beam and sing; “I’m creative, it’s ok, I’ll just exercise the right half of my noggin’” (“right” as in “the opposite of left”, not “right as in “correct) – but if you want to live to a ripe ole age as a mentally healthy legend, it’s about using and exercising the whole of your brain. And yup, it’s pretty much been proven: exercising brains boosts life expectancy.

So us lot here are calling for a culture change.

We need to become more familiar with the language of mathematics. It’s about logical thinking and pattern setting. You just need the technical landscape to learn how to play its tune. It can be linked to art, music… it can even save lives (imagine a nurse administering that crucial shot of meds without it). Marcus, Dara and fellow comedians featured in Dave Channel’s School of Hard Sums are here to convince us it’s actually a fun (and even sexy!) subject.

So here’s a puzzle to get the neurons firing:

A temple was built in 25BC and Burnt down 50 years later.

When did it burn down?

[INSERT ANSWER HERE]

Nope (presuming you’ve got it wrong, sorry guys!)!

The answer is 26AD. There was no year zero.

And did you know. ..? There are different sorts of infinity. At the end of the nineteenth century they discovered that you could compare infinities. One infinity can be bigger than another. I mean… whoaaa…

So to everyone who had either a boring or evil maths teacher at school; it’s time to let go and move on, and embrace the world of logic and magic numbers!

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