In the news - Matt Parker

27th November 2009 at 00:00

Who is he?

This 28-year-old refers to himself as a "stand-up mathematician". Based at the maths department of Queen Mary, University of London, he aims to encourage people to get involved with maths. He also works freelance, visiting schools to raise the subject's popularity.

Is there singing and dancing?

Not exactly. Last week, the teacher published some clips on YouTube in conjunction with the Training and Development Agency for Schools. "We're trying to find ways to get more people into maths", says the Aussie. "A lot of people don't like maths because of the teacher they had. It's ridiculous to base maths on someone who taught you when you were 13." In his clips, Mr Parker helps viewers to calculate restaurant bills, flatshares and costs with budget airlines.

So how does he do that?

Mr Parker, who previously taught at Baylis Court School in Slough, The Grey Coat Hospital in Westminster, and Hampstead School in north London, now visits schools all over the UK. "I show the children how I use maths to do magic. For example, with card tricks, magicians use number processes to keep track of the card." The maths magician performs a trick to the class, asks for the mathematical formula and encourages the children to develop their own tricks through maths. "Some tricks use algebra, some use numbers, some geometry," he says.

Maths and magic? Whatever next?

Wait. There's more. The teacher also gets students analysing maths in The Simpsons. "The show is written by mathematicians," he explains. "I play the episode and point out the mathematical jokes, the numbers in the background and the maths theme throughout. I can engage the kids because The Simpsons is cool. I can also show how, like the writers, studying maths at university can lead to all paths of life, from comedian to accountant."

Will this man stop at nothing?

No. "I run a workshop called Mathematical Mistakes in Movies," he says. "I play a clip of the film and point out mathematical mistakes the film-makers make. For example, in The Fast and the Furious they have cars doing wheelies on a gravel surface. This is impossible. What they actually did was put a thousand kilos into the boot of the car, which meant it could tip back more easily and move on two wheels."

Hooked? So are we. For more information, email Matt Parker: matt@standupmaths.com.

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