To celebrate the second Black Mathematician Month, Chalkdust magazine and UCL maths department organised a maths workshop day in Tottenham for 60 Year 9/10 students from 6 local schools. The aim of the day was to highlight the minimal progress of diversity in our field and to improve it in the best way possible. After the success of last year, we were very excited to showcase our passion in Tottenham. We hope that it will encourage young black students to engage more with maths, enjoy it and view it as an important skill for employment.
To kick start the day, the MP for Tottenham, David Lammy gave a speech about the importance of believing that you can achieve anything, regardless of what your upbringing may have been like. Lammy spoke of WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, who had to migrate to USA as a child with his parents, who both passed away soon after. Lammy also spoke about the recent Brexit proposal and how his team of researchers were needed to check it and discuss how it would impact the public’s finances. Each of these anecdotes served the purpose of highlighting the significance of maths in life’s difficult situations. Ultimately, the technological and economic climate is changing quickly, and Lammy hopes that maths students – such as the ones who were sat before him – will be well-placed to lead the way.
Keen to remind us that maths isn’t all just formulas, Dr Nira Chamberlain then arrived with an enthusiastic, interactive and humorous presentation about how maths can be applied to the real world. All the students thoroughly enjoyed these talks and could not wait for the workshops.
These workshops included fun and intriguing maths ranging from Number Theory, Modelling to Frieze patterns and Topology. They were run by UCL PhD students and Dr Naz Miheisi from Kings college. In the topology class, we made several types of Möbius loops, combined them and understood their properties. A discussion was also held about the Klein bottle and Projective plane. The students were all trying to predict what the different shapes would turn out as, but were completely astonished by the results. Some did say they would make great Christmas decorations!
In the afternoon, UCL undergrad volunteers formed a Q&A panel to answer numerous, interesting and funny questions from the pupils, some including about turning up to lectures! On a serious note, the students did find this very helpful and informative, further establishing whether maths is for them.
To round off the day, there was a question relay between schools where the winning team got their very own Chalkdust T-shirt. The pupils did get competitive against each other, albeit for the love of maths!
For me personally, I loved this whole day and the idea of inspiring the next generation felt very rewarding and I will be hoping to do more outreach events like this in the future.
To conclude, thank you to London Academy of Excellence for hosting the event. The feedback from the schools shows that they thoroughly enjoyed the day and that it will really influence their pupils’ future decisions. After all, that’s what this Month is all about!
Written by Amin Sabir