Maths trip to the University of Brighton (Session 1 of 3)

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On Saturday 16 September 2019, four of our budding year nine mathematicians met at the University of Brighton for a seminar exploring how mathematics can be used to further understand our world. The seminar was delivered by Dr Cerasuolo, Senior Lecturer and Biomathematician at Portsmouth University. She described how animals in the wild can have one of three interactions; Predatory (such as a lion and gazelle), Competitive (such as red and grey squirrels) and Co-operative (such as Remora fish, feeding on a whale’s dead skin). Our students consistently contributed with their own understandings as Dr Cerasuolo progressed, and their enthusiasm increased when they, along with some new friends from other Brighton based schools, were able to act out their own Predator-Prey simulation on a board game.

On the board the students recreated a field rife with aphids and their natural predator, ladybirds. As turns progressed the students took delight in seeing how as the aphid population rose so did the ladybirds, which in turn caused the aphids to be destroyed. This in turn led to the end of the ladybirds allowing the aphids to rise once more. The students worked as a team, calculating how each turn passed and recording their information. They then transferred this data onto a graph and compared it with graphs from other students.

It was then back to Dr Cerasuolo to explain the emerging patterns and how they could be represented mathematically. Again, our students were keen to offer their own understandings of the mathematical model which was being created. Once the formulae was explained, the students whipped out their calculators to put them to the test. At the end of the day there was the kind of warm buzz in the air found from a heightened understanding. The quartet returned back to meet their parents filled with excited hypotheses of how and where this phenomenon might be applied to other areas.

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