To celebrate National Poetry Day 2015, we’d like to share a great poem that was delivered yesterday (7 October 2015) at the start of the first ever GDST Junior Maths Conference, hosted by the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford. The poem was penned by Leela, a Year 6 pupil from Kensington Prep School, to an audience comprising 110 Year 6 girls from across the GDST network. It set the tone for what turned out to be a fun, interactive and, above all, inspiring day of maths!
“Hello everybody. Today I will be talking to you about the life of mathematics genius Andrew Wiles, and about the theorem that he devoted the majority of his life to. However, in order to make things more interesting, I have chosen to portray his life in the format (or should that be Fermat) of a poem:
A theorem that was unsolved for years, had left many mathematicians in tears.
The principle seemed to fit, but nobody could quite prove it!
Fermat’s last idea seemed simple but beware, when asked to add two numbers, each one squared,
A random answer off the shelf, might be another number times itself!
Pythagoras made this the big news, helping generations find the hypotenuse,
But when the numbers are cubed or more, Fermat thought that idea hit floor.
He proved his theorem in his head, couldn’t fit it in the margin and then dropped dead!
Andrew Wiles, a boy aged ten, was intrigued by this problem, he mused upon this curious case, and decided that it must be fate.
He would prove this age-old maths was right, he’d be working, working through the night.
However, little did he know, it would take him forty years or so!
The years went by, time does fly!
Andy graduated from college but still he didn’t have the knowledge to prove that
Fermat had told the truth, and he was running out of youth!
So, for a while, he gave up on his dream, decided to go a bit less mainstream.
He continued to live a quiet life but not proving this problem racked him with strife!
Thus, again, age thirty-three, he decided he would go down in history.
For seven years he kept on working. He hid away, sure that the proof was lurking.
So sure enough, in 1993, he pursued his destiny and revealed what was thought to be a solution to the public.
But they saw something that he hadn’t when in private.
A very, very slight flaw, but it still showed that his proof was no more.
He continued working for a year, until it was very clear,
That he had indeed found the proof, and this time he made sure that no ends were loose!
So finally, he’d got it right, the problem hadn’t half given up a fight!
However, the story doesn’t end here, Wiles wasn’t the only one interested by Fermat’s idea!
The Simpsons, a show run by mathematical prodigies, insisted that Homer’s bumbling philosophy,
Had led him to discover a brand new equation, one that did indeed rise to the occasion.
He supposedly sent years of maths down the drain, however two sums can be nearly the same.
And 3987 to the power of twelve + 4396 to the power of twelve = 4472 to the power of twelve,
Is in fact a near-miss situation, fooling most calculator’s computation.
It is correct to 15 decimal places, thus for a while Homer was front of the races.
Alas, it was not quite so (as he would undoubtedly say, ‘D’oh!’).
So, that brings us to the end of the story, I hope that I didn’t bore ‘ye.
But isn’t it truly inspiring?
One man’s determination when deciphering a supposedly impossible task, that seemed rather a lot to ask.
Yet even so he solved the conjecture, I hope that you enjoyed my lecture!
"Thank you so much for listening - I think that it is so exciting that each one of us in this room have the potential to go forth and change the mathematical landscape just as Andrew Wiles did.”