Florence Nightingale Day, April 2013

Wednesday 17th April 2013, 10:00 - 15:30, Management School Building, Lancaster University

Our first Florence Nightingale Day was part of our continuing efforts to promote mathematics and statistics and especially the participation of women in those subjects. The day was aimed at female students in year 12 but was open to male students too. It was organised by Dr Nadia Mazza and Dr James Groves, with help from colleagues and postgraduate students.

While Florence Nightingale is well known for her medical work as a nurse, she was also a pioneer in statistics, especially in the use of visualisation of statistical data. A description of this work may be found in her biography on the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, along with a large number of biographies of other female mathematicians.

The event comprised talks by prominent female mathematicians, a maths contest and opportunities for informal discussions over a buffet lunch and at a number of information stands. A summary of the talks and activities for the day is below.

Below you will also find a link to the quiz sheet used in the "Hands On Maths!" session. These questions were drawn from the following sources:

  • Archives du championnat des jeux mathématiques et logiques scolaire, Féderation Française des jeux Mathématiques
  • My best mathematical and logic puzzles, Martin Gardner, Dover, New York, 1994
  • Who wants to be a mathematician, American Mathematical Society

Talks and activities

  • Professor June Barrow-Green, Open University
    "A Woman can win the victory, though she may not wear the wreath": women and mathematics in late 19th century Cambridge
  • Professor Reidun Twarock, University of York
    Viruses under the Mathematical Microscope
  • Hands On Maths!
  • Professor Dona Strauss, University of Leeds
    Infinite numbers
  • Beth Penrose, University of Nottingham, Fiona Murray, Principal Integrity Engineer - TA Pipelines and Structures, Centrica and Suduph Imran, secondary school mathematics teacher (STEM Ambassadors)
  • Dr Marianne Freiberger, Plus Magazine
    From primes to penguins: some careers with maths
  • Maths Gallery

What did they think of the day?

The organiser of the event was delighted by the enthusiasm shown by the delegates throughout the day, and the feedback received was that participants and speakers enjoyed all the activities, especially the maths contest.

Here is some of the feedback from our students:

About the whole event

  • "Great idea: went well."
  • "Worth the long journey, learnt a lot and have a better idea of career and university course :)"

About the speakers

  • "Interesting speakers. They explored aspects of maths I was not aware of."
  • "Inspiring!"

About the quiz

  • "It was great, good chance to rack our brains on a non-school day!"
  • "I really enjoyed getting stuck in with the help of the team leaders."
  • "Challenging but good."

One of the teachers said

  • "We certainly think this is the kind of event we would like to take our students to and it has been useful. One of the students who attended the event is now planning to apply to study maths at university."

One of the speakers said

  • "I thought it was a really successful day. I would certainly encourage you to do more of the same. I really liked the blend of working mathematicians, people using mathematics, and the careers at the end. What came over very strongly was the wide range of things you can do with a mathematics degree or even just a sound knowledge of mathematics. As was evident from the talks, so much of mathematics that forms part of everyday life is hidden from view and bringing it out into the open is immensely helpful. I know if I had been to a day like that when I was at school, I wouldn't have started my working life in an art gallery and waited until I was 30 before I went to university to study maths!"


We are grateful to the London Mathematical Society, the Further Mathematics Support Programme and the Faculty of Science and Technology at Lancaster University for financial support.

Press coverage

The event was featured in both the Lancashire Evening Post and the Lancaster Guardian, thanks to the Lancaster University Press Office. Dr Nadia Mazza and Heather Johnson (a PhD student in the department) appeared on BBC Radio Lancashire's breakfast show with Graham Liver on Wednesday 17th April, talking about mathematics and the day.