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CleverClogs

The Cleverclogs maths challenge reaches its conclusion this week after nine months of competition and calculation. Question master Antony Oliver reviews the year.

SETTING WEEKLY maths questions for engineers was never going to be a straight forward business, and this week is a case in point.

That said, after nine months of competition and 111 A-level standard questions, we have reached the end of the year with only one week of competition voided (week 9, Spring term) and one question re-run (see above).

Experience shows that any small error in NCE is seized upon by readers. Publishing maths questions each week was arguably asking for trouble.

Regardless, my email has been busy with questions, queries and challenges from 'cleverclogs' over the weeks.

Based on this and other correspondence, I am certain we have all reached the end of the year having learnt (or relearned) something.

This was, after all, the primary reason for running Cleverclogs.

The feature was sparked by discussion in NCE over the value of A-level maths for engineers. With help from sponsor ACO Technology we created something that challenged and entertained readers, but also had a competitive edge each week.

But has Cleverclogs altered thinking around this debate? I still stand by the (not universally accepted) view that, provided engineers are numerate and have a decent grip of the basics, the lack of an A-level qualification should not exclude them from the profession.

That said, I think that my research did bring home to me the real world engineering applications for the basic mathematical concepts. And after all, understanding that something can be calculated certainly gives the engineer an intellectual edge that cannot be underestimated.

Yet whether that makes them a better engineer in the 21st century, I'm not sure. Demands on an engineer's role now far outstrip the ability to calculate solutions.

But hopefully the competition has renewed excitement and interest in maths as a discipline. And hopefully it has also rekindled that sense of achievement generated by reaching an answer just for the sake of it.

When we got together with ACO Technologies to organise Cleverclogs we thought it would be popular. But to have more than 1,000 individuals and 300 teams register was astounding.

Over the year the number of active participants online has settled down but it is clear that the questions remain a regular Thursday morning activity in offices and sites across the UK.

The degree of competition sparked has been scary - as was the ability of so many competitors. The challenge of finding the 'unanswerable' question was soon abandoned - no matter how obscure or time-consuming, the answers were always delivered.

This ability was demonstrated first hand at the Spring term live final held at Civils 2004 in Birmingham. Five teams and 10 individuals amazed the audience with the speed and accuracy of answers delivered under pressure and against each other and the clock.

This experience will be repeated just before Christmas at the Live Cleverclogs Grand Final. This event will be held at the ICE headquarters in Great George Street, London on 15 December and will see the individual and team winners from all three terms pitted head to head live.

At stake will be the title of Cleverclogs 2004 winner but also a trip to the US - a prize certainly worthy of the effort put in. The full line up of contenders will be confirmed next week, but put the date in your diary - supporters are welcome.

And don't forget that all the questions and worked solutions are now posted on www.nceplus.co.uk.

So if you missed the questions or simply want to check your maths knowledge, visit the site and take a look.

As for what's next - well watch this space. It's not over yet!

Subjects covered by Cleverclogs

Differentiation Integration Trigonometry Statics Dynamics Sequences and series Functions Algebra Equations Circular measure Coordinate geometry Stationary values Newton's Laws Friction and inclined planes Moments Projectiles Vectors Binomial distributions Poisson's Ration Statistics Kinematics Centres of mass Work, energy and power Collisions Probability Kinematics

Don't forget to post your answer to the build up question at www. cleverclogsonline. com

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