How Sting can help children understand maths

Maths Week speaker uses song about gambler to demystify confusing rules for students

Sting: Academic  Ben Sparks uses his song Shape of my Heart, about an inquisitive gambler, to uncover hidden laws of maths and probability. Photograph by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Sting: Academic Ben Sparks uses his song Shape of my Heart, about an inquisitive gambler, to uncover hidden laws of maths and probability. Photograph by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

 

Pairing gambling with the music of an aging rock star may seem an odd way to teach maths to 13-year olds, but Ben Sparks says the combination demystifies often confusing rules.

Sparks, a mathematician at the University of Bath and a musician, uses Sting’s song Shape of my Heart, about an inquisitive gambler, to uncover hidden laws of maths and probability.

What people often perceive as a emotionless, methodical science, Sparks says, has a lot more in common with the imagination of melodies and rhythms than people realise.

And he’s on a mission to make sure kids realise it as part of Maths Week, which kicked off at the weekend in Dublin. “I get to celebrate a song, but I also get to celebrate the bits of maths that have similar emotional reactions for me.”

Sparks will make a presentation at Trinity College Dublin today at noon. Further details about Maths Week events, which run until Sunday, can be found at mathsweek.ie.

Question: Easter Monday 1916 occurred on April 23rd. The centenary was commemorated on Easter Monday 2016, which fell on March 28th. How many weeks were there between the two events?

See mathsweek.ie for the answer.