Having talked myself into going onto a boat and having an amazing time, I was yet again offered an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. Would l like to pitch about my favourite areas of maths against really awesome mathematicians from all around the world in a public voting competition?
No, I would not thank-you very much for asking. The thought of taking part filled me with absolute dread and total horror for many reasons including: being found out for not knowing that much maths; not being very good at maths and because I’d have my words published for people to vote on.
When I mentioned that there was no way I was entering the competition, my husband told me quite bluntly to “get a grip” and enter. However, it was my kids who had the knock-out punch: “you tell us to do things that scare us all the time, so why aren’t you?” Fair play.
Still not completely convinced I’d be accepted, I e-mailed the organisers of the Big Internet Math Off to see if indeed the areas I wanted to talk about were complex enough. I thought that would be the end of it because they’d see my topics of the Bernoulli Principle, the Naiver Stokes Equations and Bayes Theorem would far too easy and I could decline with grace. Only I was told that they were fine. Which is how I found myself at the end of June writing pitches about the areas of maths which have, over the years, made me perpetually smile.
When the list of entrants was released and I saw the breadth and depth of maths communication talent involved, I relaxed slightly. Don’t get me wrong – there are published authors, bloggers, vloggers, teachers, lecturers, professors…and so the list goes on. No matter what happened, saying I’d been part of the competition was an achievement. So whist people will judge what I write they would also judge me for not taking part. I think I’d rather be judged for having tried my best.
Having got over that fear, my deepest darkest fear was then shown to be unfounded. As well as being awesome mathematicians, and outstanding communicators it turns out that everyone involved is really friendly. Everyone, literally everyone involved, from the organiser to those reading/voting are doing their utmost to make this a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting experience. It turns out I wasn’t the only one scared about taking part. I’m not the only one struggling to fit writing the pitches around work. I’m just not alone. People have incredibly kindly pointed out errors in my writing (and I do mean kindly). I’ve had words of encouragement and wonderful banter on the competition hashtag (#Bigmathoff). The ultimate accolade, however, is reserved for the fact that I am now a sticker in a sticker book. No longer are the preserve of footballers, mathematicians are now collectible stickers. That fact alone made entering worthwhile.
Having been completely terrified of taking part and making a fool of myself, I will leave at the very least feeling far more a part of the maths community online, having met some amazing new people and been able to share some of the most fantastic bits of maths. Nine months into the year of saying yes, and it’s had quite an impact on my confidence (and my cake eating, which happens when I’m nervous).