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Podcasting about: A Problem Squared

In this series of posts, we’ll be featuring mathematical podcasts from all over the internet, by speaking to the creators of the podcast and asking them about what they do.

We spoke to comedian and presenter Bec Hill about the podcast she co-hosts with stand-up mathematician Matt Parker, in which they solve problems.

A Problem Squared logo

Podcast title: A Problem Squared
Website: aproblemsquared.libsyn.com
Links: LibsynApplePatreon
Average episode length: 42 minutes
Recommended episode: Airplane Stacks and Backpack Hacks

What is your podcast about, and why did it start?

Matt and I had talked about doing a podcast together for about a year and a half, but every time we met up to discuss it, we accidentally got drunk.

Eventually, a long drive back from Edinburgh (made longer by roadworks) gave us the time to soberly talk about what the show should be and we agreed it should be a problem-solving show. Largely because every time we caught up, we pondered over how to answer problems ranging from the mathematical to the downright silly.

Who is the intended audience for the podcast?

It’s sort of a venn diagram of Matt’s maths fans and my curious fans. I’ve only recently started to find maths interesting, so I’m hoping folks like me are finding that the show is a nice entry point for that. But at the same time, I hope it’s still got enough of the nitty-gritty stuff for more experienced people too.

What is a typical episode like?

Each episode we try to solve 3-4 problems posed by ourselves and our listeners, which sometimes means revisiting past problems. It’s informative, but chatty and personal. We aim to hit 42 minutes for each episode, and they are released on the last day of each month.

Why is it different to other mathematical podcasts?

I can’t answer that because I have never listened to a mathematical podcast hahaha. I think people should listen if they find maths daunting or boring – because I used to be one of those people, and Matt’s really good at making it accessible and fun.

I think people who already like maths should listen because we’re both professional comedians, so it’s pretty funny as well as educational.

What are some highlights of the podcast so far? (we can link to particular episodes)

I mean, personally, my favourite problem was when someone asked “How much pizza is too much pizza?” and in the name of science, we both ate as much pizza as we could before we were sick.

But there’s been some unexpected highlights, like in the first episode, Matt solves someone’s problem regarding refrigerator economics and it’s stayed with me much more than I ever imagined it would.

What exciting plans do you have for the future?

I have a problem which I posed to Matt ages ago, but we don’t want to tackle it until the weather is warmer. It’s really dumb, but I think the process of testing to see if the answer is correct will be really fun (and funny).

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