DUNCAN SMITH from Glasgow Science Centre wants more people to understand the joy of maths ahead of Maths Week Scotland (September 28 until October 4).

Maths is one of the most exciting, useful things on the planet and beyond. Lots of people have a negative reaction when maths is mentioned, they remember difficult sums and indecipherable equations in school. Maths needs a rebrand.

The house you live in? Impossible without maths. So are air travel, cookery, bridges and shopping. Maths is magnificent, and here’s how.

Maths can help save the planet

Maths can be used to model, investigate and display real

world relationships. Using mathematical models can help us make better decisions and understand the consequences of our actions.

Governments around the world are using maths to keep a track of their carbon emissions and calculate the most effective ways to improve our environment. If we build three nuclear power stations, how much do our CO2 emissions decrease by? If we make all cars battery powered by 2050, how much cleaner will our air be? Maths is fundamental to answering these questions.

The UK government has the DECC 2050 calculator, which helps people understand how we might get to net zero. It’s an easy visual guide – powered by maths, but no sums involved.

Your maths teacher was right

At some point you may have been told by a maths teacher that everything you learned in that classroom would be useful later in life. And you looked at the Pythagorean theorem on the blackboard, and doubted that a formula about the sides of a right-angled triangle would ever be useful.

Doubt no more! Yes, Pythagoras discovered his theorem in 540 BCE, but it’s still useful today. Engineers and surveyors use it every day to calculate areas and distance. You can test the theorem at home – draw some right angled triangles of all different sizes, get your ruler and you’ll find that the theorem checks out.

Maths help with uncertainty

We’ve all felt uncertain recently. Maths can help!

Maths deals with probability and risk, and can reveal likelihoods of something happening; it has played a huge role in our response to the pandemic. Maths helps us work out the reproductive, or R number, of the new coronavirus (and every other virus). The R number is a way of rating a virus’s ability to spread. Measles has an R number of 15 in populations without immunity, which means one person will spread measles to 15 others, on average.

If we did nothing, the R number for the new coronavirus would be about three. But all the different measures we have taken have an effect on the R number, and kept it lower. We can also put the R number into different mathematical models that can, to different degrees, help us decide what behavioral changes we need to make to keep the number low.

Maths can be found in nature

Maths is behind some of the most beautiful things on Earth. The six-sided hexagon can be seen in bee hives, snowflakes and when bubbles are pushed together.

Concentric circles can be seen in onions, tree rings and ripples on a pond.

Fractals are another mathematical shape that are very pleasing to the eye – their repeating shapes can be found in ferns, tree branches and even our coastlines.

And let’s not forget The Fibonacci Sequence or Golden ratio as it is commonly known, which can be found in shells, trees, flower petals, storms and even you!

So while there are exhibits at Glasgow Science Centre and #GSCAtHome videos where you can explore maths, take a closer look at the maths of nature around you the next time you are outdoors.