HCS Celebrates Women in Mathematics
Over 100 pupils from seven schools across the county
attended our first conference to celebrate women
in mathematics. The event was aimed at girls (and boys) who are considering A
Level Mathematics and Further Mathematics and organised through the Further
Mathematics Support Programme (FMSP). Embley Park was the family home of
Florence Nightingale - who herself was a pioneering statistician.
The keynote speaker was Noel-Ann Bradshaw, who was principal
lecturer in mathematics and operational research at the University of
Greenwich. Noel-Ann started the day by reflecting on HCS’s fascinating history
of being the Nightingale’s family home by dramatically appeared dressed as
Florence. She immersed the students in Florence’s remarkable journey through
life and mathematics. While working as a nurse in Crimea, Florence Nightingale saw
the dire state of the cleanliness in the hospitals. Using statistical diagrams,
she showed the devastating effect that it had on the death toll in the war. Her
innovative use of statistical diagrams clearly showed the public and the
government the extent of the problem, leading to government action. Derivatives
of these diagrams are still used in Mathematics and the changes in nursing have
had a lasting impact.
The students took part in a carousel of three workshops that
had the titles: ‘Outbreak’, ‘Bubbles’ and ‘It’s a disaster’. ‘Outbreak’ was presented by Prof Christl Donnelly who is a
statistician and epidemiologist at Imperial College London. She was also a
leading member of the Ebola response team (2014-2016) and received a CBE in the
2018 New Year’s Honours for her work in disease control. This was an excellent
opportunity to hear how researchers use Mathematics in today’s society for
significant global change. In many ways, Prof Donnelly’s story mirrors Florence
Nightingale’s with her use of data, influencing government policy and having a
huge impact on healthcare.
‘Bubbles’ started with the challenge that we can
mathematically link trees, towns and bubbles. Through an exploration of a
Further Mathematics module (called decision mathematics), the students were
guided to problem solve in groups to independently discover the connections.
The workshop finished with a beautiful moment when bubbles were created that
matched the Mathematics they had been working on.
Former President Barack Obama introduced the task for the
final workshop - ‘It’s a disaster!’ His public address after the Chilean
Earthquake in 2010 set up the situation and need for an organised response for
aid. The students were given the task of organising the aid, they needed to
sift through the information to decide what was important and use Mathematics to
find what was the best possible course of action.
This event marked not only a
celebration of one woman’s dedication to reason and the use of statistical
analysis to form and shape arguments for the benefit of others, but served as
an opportunity to inspire, educate and open windows of wonder and possibility