Maths Week 2019 to celebrate George Gabriel Stokes

More than 125,000 young people have registered online to attend events

Maths Week, October 12th-20th, will see an unprecedented number of events across the island of Ireland, and marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Stokes, one of Ireland's most eminent scientists.

Born in Co Sligo in 1819, he spent most of his life at Cambridge University, and made a remarkable number of important contributions to mathematics, physics and engineering – including the science of weather and climate change.

"It's wonderful to think that the genius of Stokes's mathematical equations still has such a strong significance today, helping climatologists to figure out what's happening with our world as we face existential challenges through climate change," says Dr Sheila Donegan, co-founder of Maths Week and director of Calmast Stem Engagement Centre at Waterford Institute of Technology.

She says Ireland needs to have continuing emphasis on maths and numeracy at a national level, in line with our overall progress in the area of Stem-related subjects, she adds. “It’s essential for this level of engagement with maths to continue so that we can support the development of rewarding careers and a competitive economy for the future.”


It’s even more important when you consider the role of maths in figuring out the potential future of the planet. While maths isn’t always easy for everyone, parents need to encourage an interest in maths and numeracy from an early age and also to encourage older students to do the absolute best they can at maths throughout their school lives, Dr Donegan adds. Disciplines such as engineering, science, computing, finance, economics, accountancy, management and many others all have a mathematical basis.

Skilled graduates

“It’s essential that we have an adequate pool of appropriately skilled graduates to create, attract and maintain high-quality jobs in this country, where all of these sectors of the economy are showing a strong demand for graduates and this will increase in the future ... maths and numeracy enable every aspect of life and living in Ireland, so an overall proficiency is clearly essential for everyone in our society and economy.”

The range of events this year is impressive, with a view to engaging everybody, from primary pupils to adults. They include catapult building at Castlecomer Discovery Park, maths in space hosted by Birr Science Centre, and the maths of sport for transition year and senior cycle students at Croke Park.

Maths for Africa uses the backdrop of the African continent to give pupils a positive shared learning experience online. It also provides a rare opportunity to use maths in a global context, giving an insight into the lives of children abroad. Also featuring are many workshops and competitions.

The Maths Week team will be taking their popular live pop-up maths exhibit to the streets of Dublin on Saturday, October 19th, 11am-5pm with shows and activities for all the family at the Bank of Ireland Plaza on College Green. A similar event will be staged in Belfast to the ground floor of Victoria Square from noon on Saturday, October 12th.

Maths Week, now in its 14th year, is co-ordinated by Calmast. Its programme is funded through the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme, with support from the Department of Education and Skills, Matrix – the Northern Ireland Science Industry Panel, ESB and Xilinx. It is run with more than 50 partner organisations including universities, institutes of technology, libraries, schools, training colleges and employers.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times