Featured Event – Escape with Fermat’s Lost Proof


Escape by d76, under a Creative Commons license

First off, what is an escape room?  In short, it is an adventure game in which you and a team of your friends are locked in a room and have to solve a series of puzzles to escape within a set time limit.  If you like puzzles, working in a team with friends, or just fancy something new, then you should really try one.

My wife and I are a little bit addicted to escape games.  We first did one in Edinburgh when a couple of our friends who like puzzles and games visited us and we enjoyed it so much that we instantly booked a second one for the same day!  Since then we have done lots of games in both the UK and New Zealand, and have run a couple of them for adults in Scouting.  When brainstorming ideas for the Festival of Creative Learning with the Maths Outreach Team, I suggested running a maths-themed escape room and many people were keen on the idea, so here it is.  Escape games are increasingly being used in education and team building, and we are having a lot of fun designing the puzzles and activities for this, as well as learning many interesting things from each other!

The event, ‘Escape with Fermat’s Lost Proof’, as you may be able to guess, has a maths theme. It is important to point out that, whilst the puzzles are themed around mathematics and mathematicians, you will not require any knowledge of advanced mathematics to solve the puzzles.  A logical approach and basic arithmetic are all that you will need.

The story is that you have discovered Fermat’s original proof of his famous last theorem for which you can find out more here or in the excellent book by Simon Singh. The game begins when you discover one of the dastardly Professors in the School of Mathematics has stolen the proof and hidden it somewhere.  You know that they are lecturing for the next half an hour and have managed to gain entry to their office.  Unfortunately, the door has locked behind you.  You have half an hour to find the proof and a way to escape.

As well as escaping in the given half an hour and (most importantly) having fun, we would like you to come away having learnt something about mathematics and mathematicians throughout history.  It is also a good chance to develop your puzzle-solving skills and get to know your friends or colleagues a bit better.  For the more competitive amongst you, we have two rooms so you can go head-to-head and see which team escapes quickest!  We will be keeping a leader board of the fastest teams throughout the Festival.

Everything you need to solve the puzzles is in the room so you don’t need to bring any special equipment or clothing.  The puzzles require minimal physical strength and are accessible to almost anyone.  Most escape rooms cost around £50-100 per hour, so this is an excellent opportunity to try one for free and see how much fun it can be.  We are running the room 13:00-19:00 on Wednesday 22nd February and 12:00-19:00 on Thursday 23rd February, so there are plenty of opportunities to take part whether you are staff, students or alumni (or a mix!).  We recommend teams of 2-6; if you have more people then you could book two (or more) time slots.  If you would like any further information then please contact Ben Goddard (b.goddard@ed.ac.uk).

Ben Goddard

If you like the sound of this event you may also be interested in: Knitting and Knot Theory, Board Game Jam: The Expansion, The Birds and the Bees, Mathematical bake-off: Understanding mathematics by baking, iGEM Sandpit


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