Bayes's Theorem in neon at Autonomy in Cambridge, UK - Photo: © Matt Buck - - CC BY-SA 2.0 licence

Merton College Mathematics Society

This has been the first normal year in a while for the Mathematics and Joint Schools Society, with all events taking place in person. Following an uncontested election, co-presidents Dragos Crisan and Inés Borchers Arias were elected, taking over from last year’s presidents, Emily Slade (human) and Rio (dog).

We had the chance to meet the freshers in the subject tea that happened in 0th Week. We discussed what Mertonian mathematicians’ lives look like over some refreshments. This was an amazing opportunity to relax and catch up before term started.

Maths help sessions were the main thing done during the year. Happening each Saturday in different College locations, some of us gather to help each other with maths questions or challenges (specially targeted for first years) over some snacks and apple juice (sometimes in shot glasses). They’re always very fun and a cool way of keeping the mathematical (and joint schools) community together. In Hilary term we had two bigger events: Thirsty Meeples night out and Subject Dinner. In the games night we played some (vaguely mathematical) board games (they involved numbers, we swear) and had a lot of fun. Subject Dinner featured an amazing menu in the New Common Room, followed by a great speech on the history of maths. Overall Hilary was a good term for the Maths Society.

Trinity saw the return of the Mathematics ‘Garden’ Party. However it was sadly not in the garden as the weather didn’t permit it. The party was saved, though, as we ended up holding it in the Games Room. This turned out to be an advantage as we had fun playing pool. It happened slightly earlier than expected but it was a good break from revision right before the last period before exams.

Looking back, the Maths Society has been really active this past year. We hope to keep up with the fun activities next year.

Dragos Crisan (2019) and Inés Borchers (2020)
Mathematics Society Co-Presidents 2021-22

Previous years

It has been a very different year for the Mathematics and Joint Schools Society, with events taking place online and learning to adapt to new ways of socialising. Following an excited contested election, co-presidents Emily Slade (2019, human) and Rio Caulfield (dog) were elected, taking over from last year’s amazing presidents, Jonny Durston and Rodrigo Marlasca Aparicio (both 2018).

The year began with a virtual subject tea, which was a great chance to see all the freshers and get to know them. Attended by first years through to fourth years, this set the tone for future events to come, with different years being able to mix together and get to know one another.

Keeping up with tradition, the year has been filled with the weekly maths help sessions. Excitingly, some of these were in-person in Michaelmas term, and provided great relief from other Zoom and Teams socials. Accompanied by baked goods, these sessions consisted of providing help to the first years with their problem sheets, and giving general mathematical advice.

One bonus of having a mixture of in-person and virtual maths help sessions was the ability to keep them going over the holidays and remote Hilary term, and to maintain contact with students who weren’t returning to Oxford, both for mathematical help and for keeping in touch with other students during these strange and unprecedented times.

With many students returning for Trinity term, and with the weather growing warmer, maths help sessions were once again able to take place in person: this time in Fellows’ Garden. Blessed with sunny weather, the annual Mathematics Society Garden Party also took place, with a great turnout and a chance to wave goodbye to the current maths students until next year.

Emily Slade and Rio Caulfield (both 2019)
Mathematics Society Co-Presidents 2020-21


It has been a very exciting year for the Mathematical Society. Following a nail-biting election in which they ran unopposed, the joint presidents Rodrigo Marlasca Aparicio and myself (Jonny Durston) were elected, taking over from the superb Abbie Manning and William Whitehouse. We have focused on making several key changes to the society, most notably improving communications between years and making events as accessible as possible.

The academic year began with a fantastic subject tea, with representatives from all years present. The particular highlight, aside from the Colin the Caterpillar cake of course, was a chance to have some great conversation with the new freshers. In particular, it is lovely that over half of the first years taking Mathematics are female, which represents some of the progress that has been made in the ongoing efforts to improve gender equality in Mathematics. We were able to pass on some of the tips and tricks we have learned from studying at Oxford, and just generally have a good laugh.

Having a laugh while helping one another has remained a key theme throughout the year, as we held weekly maths help sessions. Unsurprisingly, these consist of older years assisting the first years with their problem sheets, and there have been lots of snacks available too, most notably Rodrigo’s famous baking (I would particularly recommend the cookies…) These have been a great opportunity to bridge the gap between years and have really strengthened the sense of mathematical community in Merton.

The yearly subject dinner occurred as usual, with a decent turnout. There was delicious food and drink, good conversation, and an uplifting talk by Radek about how he came to be a mathematician. He also mentioned the progress made in gender equality, and his hopes for this being reflected in the tutors as well as the students. After the meal, we retired to the bar for some more drinks and card games.

It goes without saying that Trinity has ended rather abruptly, but despite the issues that may have arisen, we have still been able to remain in contact with one another, albeit in a different way to usual. Weekly virtual maths help sessions are still occurring, and we are looking into a way of expanding Rodrigo’s baking into a global cookie empire! This year has been a fantastic success, and undoubtedly this greatness will continue to be upheld by our successors.

Jonny Durston & Rodrigo Marlasca Aparicio‎
Mathematical Society Co-Presidents 2020-21


This year sees the first time the Mathematics Society has seen a dual presidency as Abbie Manning (2017) and I take over from Zershaaneh Qureshi (2016). We believe this will allow us to organise more frequent events for the mathematicians of Merton College.

We kicked off the academic year, as always, with the mathematicians’ Subject Tea. A chance for the new first years to meet and socialise with the higher years. This was a great success with many students attending. I think this is a great way to start things off and makes the first years feel like they have a more informal academic and emotional support network than those provided by College; something which I’m sure makes many of them feel much more comfortable.

The new first years have shown an independence in their learning, preferring to work through their problems alone rather than in a group setting as in previous years. Because of this, the usual maths help sessions run by the second years have been replaced by a system where the first years ask for help as and when they need it. Along with fitting their working style this has the added advantage of giving them help when they need it rather than at a set time every week.

As always, the Mathematics Society also organised a Black Tie Dinner in Hilary. Unfortunately, this year the turnout of students was not what it has been in previous years. Despite this, the event was a massive success with former Warden Sir Martin Taylor giving a captivating speech on his career and the various effects he has had on the mathematical community and the world at large. This year’s Dinner did denote a break in tradition though, as new regulations meant that we could not hold the election during the Dinner. Instead the election was held over email towards the end of Hilary term, which saw Abbie and me win out over RON (Re-Open Nominations).

The last event of the year for the Merton Mathematics Society is the Trinity Garden Party. This year saw a large turnout of undergraduates, despite a small scare about the chance of rain (no doubt due to the promise of Jaffa cakes). In the end the weather turned out okay and the party was a great success.

Now, towards the end of Trinity term we say goodbye to our fourth-year mathematicians and look forward to greeting a new set of first years come Michaelmas. This year has been a successful one for the Mathematics Society and I have no doubts that the coming years will follow suit.

William Whitehouse (2017)
Mathematical Society Co-President 2019-20