In 2018 I ran a just-for-fun competition to find “The World’s Most Interesting Mathematician”. It was so much fun that I ran it again in 2019 and 2020. And then big things happened in my life and the wider world and I haven’t had the energy to do it again.

Until now!

Each match will pit two interesting maths things against each other. The mathematician who gives the most interesting things in each group, as decided by you, goes on to share another fun maths thing in the next round. In order to make the whole thing hang together, we’re going to call the person who wins ** The World’s Most Interesting Mathematician (2024)***.

** of the 16 people I contacted, who were available in July, and wanted to take part.*

I’ve asked the competitors to come up with maths topics they find interesting. I don’t need new things, or things that they came up with – just the kind of thing that you’d tell a fun maths friend about when you bump into them.

The tournament will start on the 1st of July. Each match will be a post here on The Aperiodical, where the two competitors will each make a pitch for something they find interesting. At the end there’ll be a poll where you can vote for the thing you found most interesting. Each poll will be open for 24 hours, and then the person with the most votes will be victorious in that match and continue to the next round.

Without further ado, here are the charming people who will be trying to out-maths each other to victory this year, in random order:

**Angela Tabiri** is a mathematician and youth mentoring in STEM expert from Ghana. She is the founder of Femafricmaths, a non profit organisation that promotes female African mathematicians to highlight the diversity in careers after a degree in mathematics. You can follow Femafricmaths on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and X.

**Sam Kay** is a maths student at Durham University where he hosts the Chalkboard Ultra podcast and spends too much time thinking about spinors. Outside of maths, Sam runs one of the university’s jazz bands. You can follow him on X, and Chalkboard Ultra on X and Instagram.

**K.P. Hart** is a mathematician, general topologist, and occasional set theorist; he also writes for the Dutch math journal Pythagoras. You can follow him on Mathstodon, Bluesky, YouTube, or look at his homepage.

**Tom Edgar** is a math professor and the outgoing editor of Math Horizons. He enjoys thinking about and animating so-called “proofs without words.” You can follow him on YouTube and Instagram, or look at his homepage.

**Katie Steckles** is a mathematician based in Manchester, who gives talks and workshops and writes about mathematics. She finished her PhD in 2011, and since then has talked about maths at universities, schools events, festivals, on BBC radio and TV, in books and on the internet. You can find her on Mathstodon, Instagram, and as part of The Finite Group (and here on The Aperiodical).

**Howie Hua** teaches math to future elementary school teachers at Fresno State. He also likes to make math explainer videos and math memes. You can find all his socials on his linktree.

**Mats Vermeeren** is a Research Fellow and Lecturer at Loughborough University, UK. He is a Dutch-speaking Belgian. Dutch is one of the few languages in which the word for “maths” does not derive from the Greek “máthèma”, so his parents had no idea what they predestined him for. You can follow him on YouTube and Mathstodon, or look at his homepage.

**Dave Richeson** is a professor of mathematics and the John J. & Ann Curley Faculty Chair in the Liberal Arts at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA, and is the author of Euler’s Gem (Princeton University Press, 2008) and Tales of Impossibility (Princeton University Press, 2019). You can follow him on Mathstodon and X, or look at his homepage.

**Max Hughes** is the coordinator of MathsCity Leeds, who spends their free time playing table-top roleplaying games and reading comic books, whilst being engaged with fun mathsy projects on the side. You can follow them on Instagram.

**Fran Herr** is a PhD student in mathematics at the University of Chicago. She studies low dimensional topology and geometric group theory. You can follow her on YouTube and X.

**Ayliean** (noun): Mathsy, arty, crochet crafty, origami, activist, zine author known for making badges and trouble. You can follow them on YouTube, as @Ayliean on all social media, or look at their homepage.

**Kit Yates** is an author, communicator and academic mathematical biologist who is interested in sharing stories about the places where maths can impact our lives without us even realising it. You can follow him on Mastodon and X, or look at his homepage.

**Benjamin Dickman** is a mathematics teacher at a girls’ day school in New York City and a two-time Fulbrighter. His doctoral dissertation was on creativity and problem posing with the times table. He created the word game FiddleBrix! You can find him on X and Bluesky.

**Matt Peperell** is a London-based recreational mathematician living a double-life as a software developer. Outside of work and when not doing maths he likes bellringing and playing board games. You can follow him on Mathstodon.

**Matt Enlow** teaches mathematics at the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, MA. You can follow him on X, BlueSky and Mathstodon.

**Fran Watson** is a teacher and communicator of mathematics originally hailing from Cornwall but now living in Cambridgeshire (by way of Cardiff in between – locations today brought to you by the letter C!) She loves puzzles, origami, games and musical theatre and will endeavour to weave these passions into her pitches.

You’ve got $2 \times (2^4-1) = 30$ bits of fun maths to look forward to over the next month. I’m sure there’ll be some old favourites, and plenty of stuff you’ve never heard of – looking at the list of things that are going to come up, there were a fair few things I’d never seen before.

Of course, no Summer knock-out tournament would be complete without a wall-chart to print out and follow along at home, so I’ve made one:

Here’s the full tournament schedule in text form:

Date | Match | Mathematician 1 | Mathematician 2 |
---|---|---|---|

2024-07-01 | Match 1 | Katie Steckles | Benjamin Dickman |

2024-07-02 | Match 2 | Angela Tabiri | Max Hughes |

2024-07-03 | Match 3 | Matt Enlow | Sam Kay |

2024-07-04 | Match 4 | Mats Vermeeren | Howie Hua |

2024-07-05 | Match 5 | Matt Peperell | Fran Watson |

2024-07-06 | Match 6 | Ayliean MacDonald | Klaas Pieter Hart |

2024-07-07 | Match 7 | Fran Herr | Tom Edgar |

2024-07-08 | Match 8 | Dave Richeson | Kit Yates |

2024-07-10 | Quarter-final 1 | ||

2024-07-11 | Quarter-final 2 | ||

2024-07-12 | Quarter-final 3 | ||

2024-07-13 | Quarter-final 4 | ||

2024-07-17 | Semi-final 1 | ||

2024-07-18 | Semi-final 2 | ||

2024-07-23 | Final |

The mathematicians are relying on your support to carry them all the way to the title of World’s Most Interesting Mathematican (2024, of the 16 people I contacted who were available in July and wanted to take part).

Follow along on social media – we’ll be tooting at @aperiodical@mathstodon.xyz and the competitors will be posting on their own channels. And please post your ideas for interesting bits of maths with the hashtag #BigMathOff.

I’m voting for Angela.