Real World Problems - Clongowes Wood College

Posted: 10th October 2014

Physics Department welcomes leading Applied Mathematician Professor James Gleeson to Clongowes.

Clongowes physics students are once again involved in research projects with the University of Limerick. The department has linked up once again this year with the Mathematics Applications Consortium for Science and Industry to develop mathematical models for three problems.

Professor James Gleeson, a world leader in his field, visited Clongowes last Tuesday to launch the first phase of the project. He met with over 40 students from Syntax and Poetry to introduce the concept of Mathematical modelling and its power to solve real world problems. The students, in groups of five, were asked to select one of three problems to work on:

  1. Optimise the operation of a toll plaza.
  2. Design an algorithm, which will create Sudoko puzzles and metrics by which to assess the level of difficulty.
  3. Develop a model of the spread of an infectious disease through a population.

These are not stated as mathematical problems, they are real world problems and it is the students job to develop mathematical models describing them. The young problem solvers are in the first phase of the project where they will brainstorm ideas, decide what variables could be involved in the system, discern which to analyse and then gather the appropriate data.


Professor Gleeson spent time with each group listening, guiding, challenging, and inspiring the students. In 6 to 8 weeks time he will return to see what progress has been made and to formally launch the second phase of the project which will involve the development of the actual mathematical models describing these systems.

The third and final phase will be the testing of these models with possible re-evaluation and re-testing. The students will complete a report and make a final presentation in the University of Limerick on the model they develop.

This project is unique to Clongowes and is a fantastic opportunity for our students to get involved in real world applications and see how problems in science and industry can be dealt with using physics and mathematics.

Special thanks must go to Professor James Gleeson through whom this link has been established. Professor Gleeson is one of the world’s foremost applied mathematicians and we are deeply grateful for the time and effort he invests in this project.

Mr Stephen O’Hara


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