Events will help people of all ages to figure out mathematics


MATHS WEEK:DO YOU know your odds of winning the lottery? Do you want to improve your chances? People will have an opportunity to learn how this week during Maths Week Ireland 2009. This annual all-Ireland event, now in its fourth year, helps people of all ages to grasp how an understanding of mathematics is useful for all of us.

There are dozens of free public events across the country during the week which runs until Saturday, October 17th. There are shows for primary and secondary students but also for adults including a pub event in Dublin.

The week got under way over the weekend with Maths in the Street, which saw volunteer presenters entertaining passersby in Grafton Street, Dublin. The week is timed to coincide with the annual Hamilton Day celebrations on October 16th. William Rowan Hamilton was Irelands most famous mathematician and on that day in 1843 he created quaternions, a new form of algebra.

The Royal Irish Academy and The Irish Timesorganise an annual mathematics lecture on that day and this year the invited speaker is leading US-based mathematician Prof Efim Zelmanov of the University of California, San Diego.

On the same day, the annual Hamilton Walk takes place along the banks of the Royal Canal. Quaternions came to Hamilton as he followed the canal tow path and his route is retraced each year.

All are welcome to participate in the walk, but numbers are limited. Contact Dr Fiacre Ó Cairbre in the Department of Mathematics at NUI Maynooth (Tel: 01-708 3763) to book a place.

There is plenty to amuse and entertain earlier in the week. In a talk, What are the Odds? on Thursday 15th, Dr Nadia Baker of the University of Cambridge will reveal some of the hidden mathematics in our lives, helping to make sense of the world in situations involving risk, probability, chance and uncertainty – and yes, this includes how to improve your chances with the lottery.

Maths Week encourages students to consider doing higher-level maths, Minister for Education and Science Batt O’Keeffe said last week at the launch.

“Maths is a core subject in the smart economy,” Mr O’Keeffe said.

Full details of the Maths Week schedule are available online at