Engage the public with the hidden power of maths

Hannah Fry, 2019 Christmas Lecturer | Credit: Paul Wilkinson

The Royal Institution CHRISTMAS LECTURES will be aired over the festive period.

Throughout January 2020, viewers and schools will use secrets.iamuk.ddev.site to put questions to people whose work relates to the Lectures themes:

  • Prediction: uncertainty, statistics, probability, game theory
  • Algorithms, big data and machine learning: how they work, uses in everyday life
  • Limits of applying maths: dataset quality, bias, ethics, future of AI

If this is you, sign up now to answer online questions:

If maths is central to your work, but outside these themes, take a look at the main I’m a Mathematician site to register your interest in future activities.

Why take part

A researcher answers a question in the 2019 CHRISTMAS LECTURES Zone on Identity

The I’m a Mathematician online forum allows a deeper discussion around the CHRISTMAS LECTURES and its theme, ‘Secrets and lies: The hidden power of maths’.

Experts (that’s you) see what questions and concerns the public have, and the public have the opportunity to explore the topics raised in much greater depth. Anyone using maths in their job is eligible, you do not need to have a PhD in maths to take part.

Show students the real world of maths

Students in school classes also get to connect with the experts in live CHATs, see them as real, relatable people, and maybe picture themselves doing the same thing when they grow up.

For the people answering questions, it’s also a great way to practice communication skills. The platform helps you hone your messages and work out the best ways to explain your work to a wide audience, but in a flexible format designed to work around your availability.

And if that’s not enough, we hear taking part in online engagement is actually really enjoyable:


Just had fantastic live chats with some very enthusiastic and inquisitive students, it made my day!


How it works

There’ll be a mix of experts live on the site throughout January to answer questions related the themes of the Lectures, covering everything from probability, to machine learning, to ethics of big data.

I’m a Mathematician is based on the award-winning online STEM engagement project, I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here.

Log in to interact online in two ways: ASK and CHAT

You can answer the ASK questions whenever and wherever suits you. This will be using a simple web interface, much like sending an email.

The live chat will be moderated, and works in a similar way to instant messaging, featuring one class and 3-5 experts alongside you. Each chat runs for 30 minutes and is scheduled during school hours- You just sign up to those that fit into your schedule.

Types of questions

The students are allowed to ask whatever they want to, which helps engage all students in the class (although we moderate all questions for content first).

Typically students ask about:

  • the work you do
  • you career motivations
  • questions related to maths
  • specific questions related to sections in the Lectures (teachers often show them in class beforehand)
  • questions about you as a person, likes and dislikes etc.

This wide variety helps keep the Zone interesting for you over the month.

Time expectations

The activity is designed so you can do it around your normal schedule. If you take part, you’ll be ‘live’ on the site between 6th-31st January. You’ll get to answer relevant ASK questions and sign up for at least 10 live chat sessions with the schools. We expect the time commitment will be around 45 minutes to an hour on days that you log in, and won’t take up more than two hours.

Remember, it all happens online so you can answer questions or do chats whenever and wherever you happen to be. You do not need to log in every day during January. Unless you really want to.

Apply to take part

Fill in the short application form below by Friday 27th December:

or email at support@mangorol.la with the following info:

  • where you work
  • any notes on your availability, for example any weeks you won’t be available at all to answer questions between 6th–31st January
  • a couple of sentences summarising your work and how it relates to the CHRISTMAS LECTURES Zone theme, ‘Secrets and lies: The hidden power of maths’

We’ll start confirming with people taking part before Christmas. Every expert will have a short online profile (with picture and short bio) to fill in before the New Year.

If you want to know more, please email.