Talks for Schools

The School of Mathematics at the University of Leeds offers a number of talks to Schools and Colleges on maths topics, life at Leeds University, applying to university, and exam technique.

If you would like to see one of mine at your school, then contact me via k.houston(at)

Talk 1: Mathematics and Card Cheating

A talk combining mathematics and card cheating that includes

  • perfect shuffles
  • (not) cheating at cards
  • the game of Faro
  • some mind reading
  • modular arithmetic

The talk is suitable for Years 11 to 13.

Resources for the talk

A short video (10 mins) by me on perfect shuffles:

Calendar recall From the Be A Genius site.
Game of Faro A site on the old game of Faro.

Talk 2: The Mathematics of Auto-Tune

What does it mean to be musically 'in tune'? Singers use Auto-Tune to ensure that they are pitch perfect. This piece of software has had a huge impact on the music industry and led to uproar when used on the X Factor. The story takes us from Pythagoras to the modern day and we'll see how Auto-Tune and popular console games such as Sing Star use mathematics to produce their effects. Along the way we hope to solve the puzzle of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Chord.

Talk 3: A Million Dollars Declined: The Poincaré Conjecture

The story of how a hundred year-old problem was solved. Included are:

  • Poincaré's conjecture explained.
  • Steve Smale on the beaches of Rio.
  • How not to solve the problem and the attack dogs of Berkley.
  • How to solve the problem.
  • Perelman declines the million dollar prize.
  • Perelman declines the Fields Medal.

Talk 4: The World Is Not Flat

Some interesting topics showing applications of geometry to the real world. Can include:

  • Pythagoras
  • How a librarian from ancient Egypt measured the size of the Earth
  • How to draw circles, parabolas, ellipses and hyperbolas
  • How GPS works
  • The longitude problem.
  • Why does Greenland look bigger than South America on a wall map?