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Maths Week | 15 – 19 March 2021 | Day 2

To animate Maths Week, your teachers are offering one story a day about an aspect of Maths you probably do not know…yet!

Tuesday's story
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Today, the Poincaré conjecture. A problem that had mathematicians on edge for a century until an eccentric genius came up with it.

The Poincaré conjecture

In 1904 the French mathematician Henri Poincaré asked the question "Is every simply connected, close 3- manifold homeomorphic to the 3-sphere?”. He would then have added "but this question would lead us too far", to which I feel like answering "It is not wrong".

To simplify, the Poincaré conjecture is the assumption that any 3-dimensional object that does not have a hole can be transformed into a ball using "simple" transformations.

This problem remained unsolved throughout the 20th century and became one of the 7 Millennium Prize Problems of the Clay Mathematics Institute.


Between 2002 and 2003, the Russian mathematician, Grigori Perelman published on the internet a series of articles giving a proof of this conjecture. It took 4 years of work to International teams to validate his reasoning. He was then awarded the Fields Medal and the million dollars promised by the Clay Institute. He refused both awards and returned to live with his mother in St Petersburg. When asked why he turned them down, he simply said, "I have everything I need”.

He eventually withdrew completely from the mathematical community. Officially, he is currently unemployed. If you are looking for someone to do your Maths homework, you can always try to contact him...

Let’s continue with a little video (click on the images)

That makes me laugh.
(but I am a Maths teacher…)