Mathematics at the British Science Festival

In September 2016 the British Science Festival, one of the UK’s most prestigious scientific events, was hosted by Swansea University. Swansea Mathematics Department and the Further Maths Support Programme Wales held a “Mathematical Circus” of activities, games and exhibits as part of the festival’s family weekend at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea on 10th and 11th September.

Mathematics BSFOur “Mathematical Circus” took visitors of all ages on a tour of the world of mathematics, from the practical to the highly abstract and from the ancient to the latest research being conducted in the Department. 

Young visitors enjoyed building block activities designed by Dr Elaine Crooks to demonstrate her research on the mathematics behind image processing. Children tried their hands at adjusting airflow around an aerofoil to create lift, and tried their chances at correctly predicting the most likely outcome of random events with the Galton Board. Older visitors looked at how quantum mechanics is different from the classical mechanics we study at A-level, how mathematical modelling can help fight cancer and learnt why the double pendulum moves chaotically. Absolutely everyone had fun with the Harmonograph trying to design the most beautiful patterns. 

The Family Weekend attracted 6700 visitors from all over the UK, and visitors of all ages commented on how engaging and educational the Mathematics Circus was.

Professor Biagio Lucini, the Head of Mathematics Department in Swansea said: “Mathematics is the language of science, and the Circus activities were designed to show how mathematical research is pushing forward the frontiers of biology, computing, engineering, medicine, physics and more. The event is part of our longstanding commitment to outreach work and we look forward to offering more workshops to schools and colleges in Wales.” 

For more information about the Swansea Mathematics outreach programme please contact Dr Andrew Neate, To find out more about FMSP Wales please visit or contact Dr Sofya Lyakhova