Oxford Tour Summary

The Oxford tour takes in a range of sights from around the city, and explains the Mathematical concepts involved. We'll be looking at symmetry, geometry, GPS and engineering using footprints, string, chalk, woks and marbles!

The tour is suitable for anyone of any age and includes a lot of demonstrations that illustrate the maths behind what you see. If you choose to take your own tour of Oxford and want to make it a bit more interactive, look at the ‘Demonstration’ sections listed in the full tour to see what materials you need to bring with you.


Tour Summary

1. The roof of the Sheldonian Theatre
The fascinating and inspired mathematics behind the construction of the Sheldonian Theatre allowed it to have the largest unsupported roof the world of the 17th century had ever seen.

2. The Beehive, St John's College
In St John’s College, Oxford, one of the buildings is hexagonal in shape. Was this hexagonal structure a whim of the architect? Why are most buildings square? What does all of this have to do with bees?

3. Frieze symmetries at the Ashmolean Museum
Artists have used friezes to decorate buildings for thousands of years. The symmetries of these patterns are key to their aesthetic beauty, and also to their mathematical significance.

4. Labyrinth at St Giles' Church
Labyrinths are mathematically not very interesting, but mazes are. Networks can be used to model mazes and discover the route out!

5. Penrose tiles at the Andrew Wiles Building
No matter where you stand, the pattern in the pavement outside the Mathematical Institute never repeats. This is because it is a Penrose tiling, named after the mathematician Roger Penrose who invented it in the 1970s. Penrose tilings not only have many interesting mathematical properties, they also explain the structure of some unusual metallic crystals, called quasicrystals, that were discovered in the 1980s and won Dan Shechtman the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2011.


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