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On Thursday 5th May 2016, Glebelands School were delighted to host the mathematician Dr Colin Wright as he gave a very visually entertaining but mentally stimulating talk on the Maths behind juggling to both students and the local community.

Colin graduated from Monash University in Melbourne with a degree in Pure Mathematics and then went on to receive his doctorate from Cambridge University. Whilst at Cambridge he also learned how to fire-breath, unicycle, juggle and ballroom dance – a very impressive array of skills! Since then he has worked as a research mathematician, computer programmer and electronic hardware mathematician as well as taking time to give presentations all over the world.

Dr Wright’s key passion is finding Maths in unexpected places, so a talk about juggling didn’t focus on forces and flight paths but on the actual juggling tricks themselves. The talk was incredibly entertaining with Colin juggling throughout the presentation using tricks to illustrate his points. He explained how even though juggling has been around for hundreds of years, we are still learning new things about it thanks to Maths. A recently developed Mathematical notation has not only enabled tricks to be recorded but has actually revealed secrets and allowed the tricks to be understood further. Indeed, even the new technology of 3D printing is furthering our understanding of even very basic juggling tricks.

A particularly impressive part of the evening was seeing Colin juggle 5 balls – a skill which actually took him an entire year to learn. What is even more incredible is that now thanks to the insights produced through Mathematics, this skill can actually be learnt in only 3 months – just a quarter of the time! Very soon the entire hall was analysing tricks themselves and we even created a brand new juggling trick which Colin performed on the spot with no practice!

The evening was a brilliant success with overwhelmingly positive feedback from all those who attended and Dr Wright was kept very busy with questions from enthusiastic audience members at the end.

Mrs S Patterson
Head of Mathematics