Keynote Talk: The Four Colour Theorem


How many colours are needed to colour a map so that no two regions sharing a border are coloured with the same colour? What if you had to use the fewest number of colours possible? Mathematicians took over 100 years to find the answer to this question, and the result is one of the most controversial theorems of the 20th century! In this talk we will discuss the history of the infamous Four Colour Theorem, explain why mathematicians have struggled with it so much, and explore its links with crafts such as knitting, quilting, and colouring.

About Jeanette

Dr Jeanette McLeod is the co-founder and Director of Maths Craft New Zealand and is passionate about making mathematics accessible to everyone. She has a PhD in pure mathematics from the Australian National University, and is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Canterbury and a Principal Investigator in the New Zealand Centre for Research Excellence, Te Punaha Matatini. Jeanette carries out research in the areas of pure and applied graph theory, and in mathematics education. She also knits, crochets, and sews – a lot! In 2019, Jeanette was awarded the Cranwell Medal for Science Communication by the New Zealand Association of Scientists together with Maths Craft Deputy Director, Phil Wilson. Jeanette was elected as a Fellow of the New Zealand Mathematical Society in 2020 for her work promoting mathematics with in New Zealand.

About Maths Craft

Maths Craft New Zealand is a non-profit initiative founded in 2016 and run by mathematicians Dr Jeanette McLeod and Dr Phil Wilson from the University of Canterbury. Together with the rest of the Maths Craft Team, they bring maths to the masses by celebrating the links between mathematics and craft. Maths Craft’s aim is to show young and old alike the fun, creativity, and beauty in mathematics through the medium of craft, and to demonstrate just how much mathematics there is in craft. After all, maths is everywhere!

What is Open Mic Maths?

Open Mic Maths is essentially the “Hello, my name is…” sticker. It’s a lightning, 5 minute, informal talk about anything maths related. It outlines an idea or insight you’d like to have a deeper discussion about, a funny (maths) thing you noticed, or a particularly juicy maths problem to be explored. Anything goes, from maths-of-juggling demonstrations, to statistics presentations, (or maybe both at the same time), but you’ve only got five minutes!

For inspiration for your talk, have a look through the archives to read about talks from prevous years.

AV Setup

We will have a whiteboard, a large TV and microphone set up for talks. Please bring any powerpoint presentation on a USB drive, or bring a device with HDMI port / adaptor.

Alternatively, you can send your presentation to the organisers at as an email attachment, but this must arrive by Wednesday 5th October.

What is Breakout?

Breakout is the next step after the Open Mic Maths. The “meet and greet.” You’ve introduced your topic, now you get to discuss with other interested attendees / workshop / further develop the idea.