Maths students get formula down to a tea

Posted by er134 at Mar 25, 2014 10:30 AM |
University of Leicester maths students’ equation equals a perfect builders’ brew

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 25 March 2014

Undergraduate maths students at the University of Leicester have risen to the challenge set for them by building company Jelson Homes to work out the precise formula for the perfect cuppa- for their builders.

The second-year students were asked to apply the theory from their mathematics degree course in a practical way and find an algebra equation to help Jelson’s builders to gain the maximum flavours from their tea.

Having undertaken their own independent research, ten groups of students presented their research, findings and conclusions to Jelson recently in an X-factor style competition.

The final formula for the perfect builders’ brew is detailed as follows:

Perfect Cuppa = 2B + 30R + E(m + q + t)

2B = 2 minutes of brewing time

30R = 30 seconds of resting time

E(m+q+t) = big mug, a good quality tea bag and a treat

10W = 10ml milk

The students’ tutor, Dr Clive Rix, said: “Employers often complain that universities turn out graduates who have a high level of theoretical skills but sometimes lack the skills to apply them effectively in practice.  The Business Applications of Mathematics module is designed to address this issue.

"We give students real projects supplied by external organisations that are of current interest. Students work on these in groups, research the topic, write reports on their findings and present them to the sponsoring organisations – all skills employers tell us they regard as important. This is so different from anything else they have done that students tend to find it quite hard at first and a light-hearted project is a good place to start.

“The perfect cup of tea was too good an idea to miss.  It is something Jelson wanted doing, so the work done by the students had real value, and presenting their findings to an external client motivates students far better than an internal class exercise could, as the comments by Jelson and the students demonstrate. Yet it still contains the essential ingredients of applying mathematics to real problems: identifying the variable factors that affect the outcome, seeing how they inter-react and modelling them in a mathematical form.

“They will get plenty of chance to look at more serious topics in the rest of the module: last year, they undertook projects on predicting the electricity generated by a wind farm, evaluating the potential cost of a mis-selling claim, optimising an investment portfolio and improving the efficiency of local authority waste collection.”

Jackie Woodward, sales manager from Jelson Homes commented: “We wanted to try and dispel the myth that all of our builders like a traditional brew – one which is strong and sweet and then go on to discover exactly how to make the perfect cuppa.

“From the research findings we were presented with, they did just that and actually found that builders are, in fact, healthier bunch and no longer need lots of sugar.”

Olivia Heath from the winning team of students said: "We're really passionate about tea so the project immediately engaged us. As part of our research, we looked at many factors including temperature, strength and taste as well as the amount of milk to add.

“It was really exciting seeing how the number of participants of our survey kept going up, and we were genuinely surprised by some of the results.

“I think it's great that we're offered the opportunity to do modules like this within a maths degree. It gives us the chance to practice skills that mathematicians can sometimes lack and I think we've all improved our presenting and marketing.”

The winning team consisted of: Dimosthenis Christopoulos, 26, from Greece; Jess Durant, 20, from Somerset; Olivia Heath, 19, from Hertfordshire and Villy Nika, 20, from Greece.


Notes to editors:

For further information please contact:

At University of Leicester:

Maths student Jess Durant  at:

Dr Clive Rix at:

At Jelson Homes: Jenny Holden on 01889 571910

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