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Based on the strong reactions that it provokes from people, it would be fair to say that mathematics has an image problem.

Maths is one of the few skillsets, unlike reading for example, that people are not embarrassed to admit they do not possess. Class room memories of daunting equations and fractions with no immediate resonance to the real world, scare people into declaring they are frankly, “rubbish at maths”.

In reality, mathematics underpins the world around us in more ways than we could ever imagine. Just by paying bills, measuring home improvements and making everyday decisions, people do maths, often without realising.

A new ScienceBlog series will tackle these preconceptions, highlighting the role that maths plays in shaping our understanding of science, nature and the world at large.

In the first of the series, Michael Bonsall, Professor of Mathematical Biology at the Oxford University Department of Zoology, discusses his research in population biology, and what it tells us about species evolution and why grandmothering is important to humans.

Read the full Oxford Science Blog interview at