Teddy Rocks Maths Essay Competition - 2022 Winners Announced

12 Jul 2022

Launched in February 2020, the Teddy Rocks Maths Essay Competition is a joint venture between Tom Rocks Maths and St Edmund Hall at the University of Oxford, which asks high-school students to explain their favourite mathematical topic in an essay aimed at a non-specialist audience. The hope is to give them experience in communicating complex ideas in an understandable manner and also to encourage them to engage with maths beyond the classroom.

The 2022 winners have been announced!

With over a hundred entries, the competition was fierce not only in terms of numbers, but also in terms of quality (as you can see from the rather extended list of commended entries). It was an absolute pleasure to read each and every one of your essays – they were engaging, exciting, entertaining, and I learned so much about so many diverse areas of mathematics I had never previously thought about. I hope you all enjoyed the process of writing your essays as much as I enjoyed reading them and your passion for maths burns brighter than ever. A huge thank you once again for taking part, and I look forward to hearing more from each of you as you continue to develop as mathematicians.
– Tom Crawford

Student Winner

Zoe Burr: The Music of Maths

“A thoroughly enjoyable read which strikes the perfect balance between explanation and entertainment. The maths of music is a popular choice of topic in the competition, but never have I seen it explained so clearly and so intuitively. After reading Zoe’s essay I now feel I completely understand the reasons behind the traditional notes that we use – and that’s very impressive given my lack of musical talent!” — Tom Crawford

Read Zoe’s winning essay

Overall Winner

Henry Jaspars: Tangled: unravelling the mathematics of knots

“Incredibly detailed and entertaining in equal measure. Written with a great deal of humour and imagery helping to keep the reader engaged, whilst also ensuring the abstract ideas are made concrete and relatable for a non-specialist. I not only learned a lot about the field of knot theory, I enjoyed every moment of the journey.” — Tom Crawford

Read Henry’s winning essay

Honourable Mentions

Aditi Chegu: Recognising badly drawn dragons – how do neural networks work?

A highly entertaining and informative look at a popular topic which is often mentioned in the news but not usually well-explained.

Vedant Lohia: The mathematics of symmetry and monsters

The description of the periodic table for groups really blew my mind – a great introduction to an advanced topic not usually studied until 2nd/3rd year undergraduate algebra.

Nikita Handel: Knotty chocolate babka

Incredible baking skills accompanied by an excellent explanation of a lesser-known area of maths.

Ali Alhaddad: Bringing a gun into a knife fight

Using a music video to discuss advanced mathematical topics was an inspired decision – I can’t wait to see more!

Nathaniel Elder: The longest ever proof

A great explanation of a topic I’d never come across which left me wanting to learn more.

Sofia Hughes: How math is used by the government to change our perceptions

A very relevant choice of topic given the the current cost-of-living crisis – and always great to see an application of maths to the economy.

Simeon Nikulin: The problem mathematics is not ready to solve

An excellent summary of what is, and isn’t, known about the Collatz Conjecture – one of the most famous unsolved problems in the field.

Radhika Iyer: Understanding transmissions with error-correcting codes

An informative introduction to error-correcting codes and how they are linked to the problem of sphere packing.

Maria Julia Maristany: A mathematician, a monster, and a game with no players

Reads like an ode to the late, great, John Conway – a mathematician with a big personality and an even bigger repertoire of mathematics.

James Robinson: Joseph Fourier, quantum mechanic and 80s pop music

A detailed look at the many applications of the powerful, and incredibly important, technique of Fourier Series – anything featuring 80’s pop music is a win in my book!

Read all the submitted essays

Many thanks to everyone who took part and remember the competition will be running again in early 2023!

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