Speaking At The 2017 Maths Jam

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In 2017, I gave a talk at the Maths Jam Annual Gathering.

Yes, I know, after seven of them, it was about time, as several people pointed out (Thank you - I think!). But I'm not a mathematician or a puzzler, even if I like their company, and I felt a certain diffidence... What could I say that would be interesting?

Then I had a germ of an idea, then I played with it a bit, and thought it might work...

But here's the thing.

You've only got five minutes for a Maths Jam talk - and with the threat of being Rickrolled hanging over those who outstay their time, believe me, speakers regard that as a firm limit!

You can't possibly teach anyone anything in that time; you can only show them something, and if they are interested, the other MathsJammers can come and talk about it with you during one of the breaks. And they do, as well. In fact, after the Official End of the event, people were still asking me about mine.

So a germ of an idea is enough. There are many things which appear different when seen by the mathematical eye; context, in fact, is all (as one of this year's speakers pointed out). And the audience is such that if you need to do complex algebraic manipulations at high speed to fit them in the time, either they are quick enough to see the shape of those manipulations themselves, also at speed, or they are happy to take your word for it, knowing they could reconstruct it at their own speed if necessary. So you don't need to put them in, you can talk about the idea, not the technicalities.

Giving a talk changes the "feel" of the Maths Jam Weekend - in a good way, I hasten to add. It adds to the complex network of conversation, understanding, and experience that links the attendees. It provides a starter for conversations that twist and spiral in all sorts of directions. It adds to the huge variety of viewpoints and voices which is one of the features of the event as a whole.

And you'll never have a better, or more friendly audience. They are there, with you, willing you to have something interesting to show them, actively responding to what you say, looking for connections they can make with you and your topic, delighted to hear of new, interesting subjects to explore.

So, if you are new to the Maths Jam, if you are wondering whether to give a talk - it's worth considering. There are people who are willing to act as a sounding board or mentor, if you feel you need one. Just ask.

I might even do another talk myself....


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