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Events – "Mathematical Games and Culture" Show

Camille Liewig - 10/06/2009

Maths games with the stars

© Inria / Photo C. Dupont

The 10th Mathematical Games and Culture Show, held in Place Saint Sulpice in the heart of Paris, has just come to an end. For four days, young visitors learned more about maths while enjoying themselves. Astronomy was the star of this year's show. To mark the event, Inria presented a star charting program that thrilled all the Little Princes.

This year, Inria struck an original note by explaining computer programming in the style of a chef explaining a recipe. Take some astrophysics mathematical formulae. Add a little computer language. Blend together. You now have a program to calculate the position of the stars. Concocted by an Inria researcher, the program gives the position of any star at any moment in time. What stars could be seen the day I was born? What can we see in the sky now? What are the stars' names? The program lets the sky speak.

Since its creation in 2000, the show has been immensely popular with youngsters. "Study and think while you play" – that's the motto of Marie-José Pestel, a maths teacher and President of CIJM, the International Mathematical Games Committee. With the help of other volunteers, she has organised the show with great enthusiasm for ten years now. And it works! With 25,000 visitors this weekend, this open-air maths show, set right in the heart of Paris, is drawing bigger crowds every year. Games designers, publishers, research organisations, scientists – all the participants are keen to share their love of maths and science with the young and not-so-young. And, thanks to the Inria team, some of the youngsters may have left the show with stars in their eyes – and their hearts set on a future in maths.

Keywords: VoronoÏ diagrams Mathematical Games