The School of Hard Sums is a comic entertainment show about maths. Hosted by comedian and broadcaster Dara O’Briain, the show uses knowledge and intuition to solve some very tasty real-world brainteasers and conundrums. But instead of pure guesswork, Dara and his co-host Oxford University’s Professor Marcus du Sautoy, use mathematics, physics, chemistry, logic and all those hidden mechanics of the world we don’t see or are too distracted by football to notice to solve his Dave-like problems.

The popular show features expert mathematicians to help solve complex puzzles.  In this current series, three of our very own Mathematics students Hannah Dabell, Jake Darby and Charlie Garwood, take on the challenge. We caught up with Hannah who told us all about it:

“After receiving an email from the School of Maths advertising the third series of School of Hard Sums, I registered my interest with the company doing the recruiting. Two phone calls and a Skype call with the producer later, I was invited to an interview in London. There were 6 of us at the interview and after introducing ourselves, we paired up to solve maths problems and then present them to the rest of the group, whilst being filmed. It was a really strange experience but I really enjoyed meeting students doing the same course at different uni’s and working together on these problems. We did this for about an hour, had a chat about what would happen if we were asked to be on the show and then we were free to leave.

I received an email asking me to go down for a week of filming, in October, about a week later. Safe to say I was very excited. I spoke to my tutor about missing the week and he said it would be fine so I started sorting everything out.

Whilst I was there, I stayed with my friend. I had to get the tube and then the overground to the studio every day which meant leaving at 6:45am each morning to arrive on time at 8:30am. Once we arrived, we had croissants and hot drinks for breakfast and were then sent off to make-up for them to prepare us for going on screen. It was surreal to be sat next to people who I’d seen on TV and have someone do all my make-up for me! Once we had hair and make-up done, we were whisked away to wardrobe for them to sort us out. By 10am, everyone was ready and we began filming the first episode of the day. It took about two and a half hours to get all of the filming done, including corrections at which point the students descended on the comedians to get photos and autographs before we had lunch. After another trip to make-up and wardrobe, we began filming the next episode about 2pm and were finished about half past four. By the time we were finished for the day, we were leaving the studio about 5.30pm which meant I got home between 7.30pm and 8pm. They were very long days and when I got back, I still had uni work to catch up on so it was a very tiring week.

Now the show is being shown on Dave, it’s been really strange but so exciting to watch and see the finished product.”

You can watch the series online at