Thursday, 15 July 2010

Maths busking

Well, here's a new phenomenon: maths busking! Have a look at this piece on the Guardian website:

So, what do you think? Personally, I can't see maths busking making a huge difference to the public perception of mathematics and mathematicians, but it's worth a try. I wouldn't mind giving it a go myself, if I were as young and attractive as the people in the video clip. Obviously, the main criticism that could be made is that in the context of the street there's never going to be any real opportunity to articulate the mathematics behind the tricks and games the buskers perpetrate. I suspect the people in their audiences will enjoy the performance but not see what it's all got to do with mathematics.

The maths buskers are talented communicators and enthusiastic about mathematics, so it's great to see them out there giving it a go. My only disappointment is that all the tricks and stunts they seem to be using are terribly old hat. I hoped to pick up some fresh ideas, but there's nothing here we weren't using back in the 1980s when some of the maths tutors used to run a mathematics nightclub at Open University summer schools. So, come on, busking guys, be a bit more creative!

But, I still applaud the initiative of the maths buskers. Maybe they might just capture the imagination of one or two youngsters and some enlightened teachers somewhere might be able to pick up on what their students report from having watched the buskers and build on the interest it has engendered. And teachers watching them may well learn a trick or two about how to communicate with an audience!

And any form of busking is preferable to the ubiquitous talentless singer, with a poorly-tuned guitar, a repertoire of three chords, and so-called music that I would never choose to listen to.

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