Mathematician starts campaign to fix ‘national embarrassment’ road signs

Matt Parker. Picture: YouTube/Matt Parker
Matt Parker. Picture: YouTube/Matt Parker

A mathematician is leading a campaign to update the football road traffic signs in the UK.

Matt Parker says the sign is misleading because it is made ‘entirely of hexagons. But it is mathematically impossible to construct a ball using only hexagons.’

He says instead of being entirely constructed of hexagons, the road traffic sign should have light hexagons and dark pentagons like a real football does.

He said: ‘Changing this to the correct pattern of hexagons and pentagons would help raise public awareness and appreciation of geometry’.

Signs are a ‘national embarrassment’

Matt Parker has said the signs, which direct traffic towards football pitches are on UK roads, are a ‘national embarrassment’.

The usual design of footballs - with hexagons and pentagons

The usual design of footballs - with hexagons and pentagons

In Brighton, Crawley and Portsmouth there are road signs directing drivers towards the Football League grounds.

In a YouTube video campaigning for the update, Mr Parker says: ‘We really should fix this. If we do get it fixed, that’s just going to bring geometry into the public mind.

“People who have never thought about the shapes that make up a football or street signs will suddenly be engaged in 3D geometry – that’s going to be amazing.”

Rejected by The Department of Transport

However the government has responded to the petition, now signed by over 20,000 people, by saying the signs are not meant to ‘raise awareness of geometry.’

The Department of Transport said in a statement: ‘The purpose of a traffic sign is not to raise public appreciation and awareness of geometry which is better dealt with in other ways.

“If the correct geometry were put onto a sign, it would only be visible close up and not from the distance at which drivers will see the sign.

“The detail of the geometry would also not be taken in by most drivers who were merely looking at the sign for direction.”

Mr Parker’s next step is to get 100,000 signatures on the petition so the issue is debated in parliament.

This article first appeared on our sister site the i.