Archive for the ‘Back to School Maths’ Category


8. Funky, Fab and Fantastic. Yeah! That’s Middle School Maths.

August 26, 2016

Mathspig Funky, fab & Fantastic 8

Funky, Fab and Fantastic INTRO

One reason why students think maths is a waste of time is because they do not see it in their world. It’s not just middle school students. We are all maths blind.

Here is the challenge. At the beginning of your next maths class:

Ask your students what ‘mathsy’ thing they have on them and see what happens. Mathspig started her ICME 13 Workshop with that question and maths teachers from around the world struggled to answer. Here is what happened.

More ideas below.


Note: I missed the significance of ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’ Quote. It was from the great mathematician Sir Isaac Newton, 1776.

More Maths on or around you: 

*food snacks: nutrition information, calories, cost.

*medication: recommended dose, concentration eg. 5 mg, quantity, cost.

*room temperature: weather forecast.

*Light Bulbs: Watts, brightness (lumens, inverse quadratic function)

*Flooring: Wood (parallel lines), carpet (tessellations), coefficient of friction (Don’t want people to slip in the wet).

*Windows, doors: Hinges (Fulcrum, Effort as a Hyperbolic function), opening/closing door is an equation of a circle, angles, fly screens (pattern), windows (pulleys sometimes), handles (knob or lever impacts on effort)

Table/desk/chair: Based on statistics to fit majority of students.

Leaning back on chair: Centre of Gravity. Watch out. 

Sharpening pencil: Circular motion, sharpness of blade reduces force needed. Why?

Pens, books dropping on floor: Good old gravity. Works every time. Quadratic fn.

Fonts: Size. Based on statistics for readability. Watch the small print.

Jewellery: Geometric shapes & patterns, but also symmetry of diamond facets, weight of diamonds in carats, purity of gold in carats (different carat).

Zips: Interlocking pattern hopefully not interlocking with your skin.

Heating: Flow rate, cost, vent locations.

Architecture: Of building involves length, height, area and cost. 

External Noise: Wall thickness. Sound proofing.

Rubbish: Recycling. Why do it?

Tights: You buy them using a height weight graph on the back of the packet. 


9. Funky, Fab and Fantastic. Yeah! That’s Middle School Maths.

August 26, 2016

Mathspig Funky, fab & Fantastic 9

Funky, Fab and Fantastic INTRO

Here is a fabulous idea for prompting students to ‘see’ maths in the world. This activity was designed by Axelle Person Faughn, North Carolina University (Below).

Mathspig Maths Selfies 1

The idea is simple.

Ask students to take pictures of maths they see in their lives. The photos below were taken by Axelle’s students.

Alternatively, you can give students an equation and ask them to find a picture representing that equation. Axelle gave Mathspig a slip of paper with the words ‘Demonstrate limits’. I sent back a picture of curly hair and a link to the equation of a helix.


Mathspig Maths Selfie 2

Mathspig Maths Selfie 3


Mathspig Maths Selfies 4

Is that pasta really a Sine Curve?

Mathspig Maths Selfies 5



1. THE GREAT Backpack ATTACK!!!

February 4, 2011

There is a lot of maths in backpacks. We’ll start with simple angles.

Students can also look at the design of the backpack to lower the Centre of Gravity, reduce pressure on shoulders and look cool as well as methods of packing the backpack to increase stability.


2. School Rulers Rule, Right!

February 4, 2011

Karate  chopping the end off a wooden school ruler has always been a classroom sport.

To karate chop a ruler the following equation applies:

Now we can have some fun, mathspigs.

We will do some calcs to compare the force, F,  required to karate chop a piece off a wooden ruler staring at 10cm length and working back to shorter and shorter lengths. These calcs also work in inches.

But when you karate chop a ruler you hold one end down with you other hand. So what is the ideal point on the ruler to act as the fulcrum for easiest karate chop force? You can find more information on levers at the Robinson Library.

You can, surprisingly, use a piece of newspaper to hold the ruler in place.  Check it out at Kingsford School.


3. Pee Physics or Splatter Free Geometry for Boys

February 4, 2011

This is a mobile urinal. Mathspig has seen these VERY PUBLIC urinals in Paris.

Maths is everywhere, even in the boys toilets … not that Mathspig ever ventures in there.

But I’ve often given talks to boys about acting tough. Can anyone be tough all day? How?

Do you karate chop your Wheatbix at breakfast?

Do you threaten yourself in the mirror with your toothbrush cleaning your teeth? When you go pee what do you do?

Pee on the ceiling?

Everytime I asked this question some kid would yell from the back of the room ‘I can do it?’

As a girl, Mathspig has to ask why?

Why would you want to pee on the ceiling … even allowing for exaggeration?

Who wants to stand in a toilet with their own pee dropping on their head? Don’t answer.

But, thanks to Mancouch and their Physics of Peeing diagram I can see that peeing angle is important.

But what is that angle, boy, mathspigs????

For easy calculations we’ll assume the flow is in a straight line. Thank you for your attention.


4. The Spit Radius or How Far are You Gonna Split to Avoid a Spit Hit!

February 4, 2011

Kids often threaten to spit on other kids with spit globs, pips or mushed up paper. How far should a kid stand back from the spitter?

Spit will travel in a parabola EXCEPT into or with the windor out the window of a traveling car………

Look at the parabola. To have the spit glob travel further the spitter should aim up in the air!!!

You’ve been warned.

The Guinness Book World Record for spitting a Watermelon Pip stands at stands 68 feet and 9 1/8 inches or 20.96m and was  set by Lee Wheells of Luling in 1989.

If you think this is all for fun, you are dead wrong mister. Watermelon spitting in Luling is serious business. There are official seed-spitting songs and yells: “Come on everybody, take a look, (insert name) gonna spit into the record book….”

Check out the next Watermelon Thump Championship at Luling, Texas on their website.

Meanwhile, you might just check out your own spitting distance at home … and use it as a spit distance safety benchmark.

Note: A mobile spit will travel further. Why?


5 . Chair Physics or Why Heads Will Roll!!!!

February 4, 2011

Teachers hate kids leaning back on chairs for a good reason.

They may not lose their head, but they could lose a few brain cells if they fall. It’s all to do with angles, but I suggest you use an empty chair or, if you like Myth Busters, perhaps you could use a dummy.

This is not a dummy.

The Centre of Gravity rules for stability apply to a person sitting in a chair is the same way the rules apply to a kid with a backpack.

For more information this is a cool GCSE Physics link using Batman and Centre of Gravity.

This is a really cool school chair trick. The image may not appear on your iPad.

This is just a really cool chair.