INFLUENTIAL mathematician and author Rob Eastaway entertained and inspired Sixth Form students, Old Eleans and staff at King’s Ely’s annual Osmond Lecture this week with a theme on winning maths bets in the pub.

By making bets with the audience, the former President of the UK Mathematical Association and puzzle-writer demonstrated that the best bets are ones where your opponents think that the odds are in their favour.  In one of his examples, Rob asked his opponents to predict the probability that at least two of the 50 random people selected would share the same birthday. Most people went for the options of 1 in 7 or 50-50 rather than the correct answer of almost certain.  He then demonstrated this effectively by choosing 50 people and asking them to say their birthdays – after just six people there was a match.

Equally surprising was his bet that numbers picked at random from, say, a newspaper will mostly begin with a 1, 2 or 3.  Again audience participation gave a spectacular demonstration of what is called Benford’s Law.

Sixth Form Scholar Georgia Baynes said: “Mr Eastaway thoroughly entertained and informed us all and, most importantly, successfully left us keen to do more maths!”

The Osmond Lecture was established by the Old Eleans’ Club to commemorate the career of Leonard Osmond, who taught science at the school from 1930 until his retirement in 1970. He died in 1987.


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