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King’s boys given lesson in the mathematics of juggling

King's students are given a lesson in the mathematics of juggling by Dr Colin Wright.

King's students are given a lesson in the mathematics of juggling by Dr Colin Wright.

Students at King’s School were given a maths lesson with a difference.

Dr Colin Wright, a teaching fellow at Keele University who holds a PhD in Pure Mathematics from Cambridge, gave two talks on the mathematics of juggling and entertained the boys in Years 8 and 9 with not only the history of juggling but also how he and others developed the notation for juggling.

His introduction to serious juggling happened when he arrived at Cambridge and the practical demonstration of this theory came to the fore during a visit to a pub with members of the Cambridge University Juggling Society in the 1980s. Soon afterwards they came up with their first sketches of a unified theory of juggling notation - a bit like reading music but for juggling.

All this was explained as Dr Wright casually threw, dropped and siteswapped his juggling balls into the Cascade pattern, the Shower, Mills Mess and the less memorably titled 45141. With a bit of lateral thinking, a little bit of maths and a lot of imagination juggling tricks can be accurately described by a simple series of numbers.

In the finale Dr Wright invited the audience to invent a trick by adjusting a series of cycle times to their own preference and then hurled two of the balls as high as the spotlights to demonstrate the juggle concerned.

Dr Wright said: “If I can save one child from a life in accountancy and turn them to do maths or science instead, then I’ve won.”

 

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