William The Maths Bear's Paws For Thought March 2018

26th February 2018

Hello Tiny Humans!

I love hearing about people utilising their maths degrees in so called unusual careers, such as the former star American footballer John Urschel. Urschel not only holds bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics from Penn State University but is also a published mathematician pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT. He obtained his degrees while playing football for Penn State and then joining major USA football team the Baltimore Ravens but retired last year in order to protect his remarkable brain from sports injuries.

It is such a long-held stereotype that you can’t be an athlete and also excel in mathematics, and while this often ‘seems’ a common truth there are plenty of examples of individuals in the real world who have no problem with combining ability in both brain and brawn.

There are also fictional examples in popular culture which can go a long way in inspiring youngsters such as Mr Spock from Star Trek, a science officer who could also temporarily paralyse people with his Vulcan death grip and could hold his own against Captain James T Kirk in a fight.

Bruce Wayne aka Batman who designs his own weapons and is highly knowledgeable in chemistry, engineering, forensics, and criminology, while Batgirl has been more recently portrayed as a leather-jacketed computer-science whiz who got kicked out of a prestigious university for racing motorcycles but who can also thrash Gotham's criminals. 

Tony Stark aka Ironman was actually a mechanical engineering prodigy and genius who graduated from MIT at 17, and could take on any baddie in a fight, especially with his self-designed supersuit. 

Bruce Banner aka The Hulk who was also a child-prodigy and ‘super-genius’ in nuclear physics – admittedly his transformation into The Hulk was due to an experiment gone wrong, and therefore he can be considered quite the liability!

Even the ultimate figure of strength – Superman – is considered vastly more intelligent than the average human. We realise there aren’t any female examples here yet but the times they are a-changing!

I love real life examples best though, and I recently heard about Stuart Macdonald, a successful body-builder, part-time model and personal trainer from the Scottish Isle of Lewis who incorporates an impressive amount of maths into his job.

Macdonald graduated from Strathclyde University with a BA Honours degree in Pure Maths and reveals that he uses his knowledge all the time in his chosen career saying “I still use a lot of formula when it comes to doing clients’ diets, I use a lot of numbers and tend to play about with maths.” During university he began working as a receptionist at a gym and knew nothing about personal training but got into bodybuilding after a friend suggested it - and he loved it. 

 “When I was going for the modelling competition they asked me to tell them something fun, so I told them how when I was 17 and back at school I went for Mensa testing and I got invited to do a one-to-one test in London.

“I didn’t end up going but I took an IQ test recently and I got a score of 139 — almost genius. They liked the idea of having a clever bodybuilder.”

We’re sure he’s not the only one out there, but he is probably the most famous, with Macdonald boasting over 100,000 followers on social media. He admits he was offered several jobs in the finance sector but chose to use his academic training to follow his other passions in life.

He now enjoys a rewarding and lucrative career, having recently been made the face of sports nutrition brand USN and has no regrets which just goes to show that a mathematical background can help you in almost any career!

Weapons Of Maths Instruction

Now, from the inspiring to the ridiculous! While school-shootings are undeniably a massive and controversial topic in America at the moment, with the recent massacre at Parkland in Florida spurring further debate on school security and gun crime there must be limits to the knee-jerk hysteria such horrific events invariably generate.

A high-school student in Louisiana was recently pulled out of school to have their home searched in a police investigation under suspicion of planning a school-shooting.

Why? Because he noticed that the square root symbol bore a similarity to a gun, and made a mild joke about it.

Seriously. Before we say anymore, we should make it clear that we completely understand the need to be extra vigilant in such situations, but this must be considered over the top.

Apparently the student from Oberlin High School noticed the likeness and was helping another student with their studies when he apparently quipped something like “Let’s get to work before I shoot you with a pistol” referring to the square root sign he had just drawn.

The student is now barred from school property pending an expulsion inquiry, despite the local Sheriff being somewhat nonplussed by the whole situation and officially clearing the admittedly rather thoughtless student of any wrong doing “He did not commit a crime,” Sheriff Herbert told ABC News “He did not commit anything remotely criminal, nothing to remotely suggest any intent to do actual harm.”

Yes, we agree that making any kind of joke about guns in an American school is somewhat stupid, especially at the moment, but the joke phrase of ‘weapons of maths instruction’ springs instantly to mind.

There is such a thing as common sense!

Till next time Tiny Humans!