A Non Mathematician At Maths Jam

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Extracted from
Rachels Ramblings

A Non-Mathematician At The Maths Jam Weekend
November, 2014

Reader, I married a mathematician.

Granted, he also ballroom dances, fire-breathes, unicycles, and juggles.

And that is the point. Contrary to the altogether-too-lazy picture presented in the media, mathematicians are not universally unco-ordinated, un-sociable loners. Far from it, in fact. And I have the proof - some 100 or so excited and excitable mathematicians and maths enthusiasts had a weekend together last week, and it's almost impossible to get them to stop talking!

The Maths Jam Weekend does indeed have "Maths" in the name, and is indeed populated largely by mathematicians, engineers, and the like. "Largely", but not exclusively - there's an archaeologist, a food scientist, a Matheknitician(!), and several people who completely defy description. My conversations have included the puzzles and ideas in the talks, embroidery, knitting, and crochet techniques, - and even particle size distribution in eye-make-up.

I've learnt new things (or at least seen new things - the five-minute format is great for improving the breadth covered, but doesn't give you much chance to take in something really new), and explained things. I've watched people wrestle delightedly, brows knitted above some new puzzle - the endless enthusiasm for new challenges is a constant source of inspiration and pleasure - and I've made new friends. I may not often see them - MathsJammers come from all over the country, and even from overseas, so sometimes the yearly Maths Jam weekend is the only opportunity for meeting - but friends they are, all the same. It's exhausting, but great fun.

And yet, every year (and this is the fifth), someone asks - rather apologetically - how I, as a non-mathematician, can even bear a whole weekend surrounded by mathematicians. It's almost as though, in spite of themselves, they believe the general media presentation of mathematicians, geeks, and nerds, as fit company only for each other.

Are you guys kidding? Do you honestly not have any idea of how attractive intelligence and enthusiasm can be?

Really, I had a blast, and I'd hate to have missed it.

EDIT, 2019 : The Maths Jam Gathering is still much as it was, with the addition of a Mathematical Baking Competition, and the Maths Jam Jam, which has nothing to do with preserves, and everything to do with new mathematical lyrics to familiar songs. It is also quite possibly the best audience in the world for a novice speaker, and a gathering in which it is easy to join in conversations, even with strangers.



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Site hosted by Colin and Rachel Wright:
  • Maths, Design, Juggling, Computing,
  • Embroidery, Proof-reading,
  • and other clever stuff.

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