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.

*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.

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).

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.

It is hidden, most often, behind screens in computer code. But every so often some magical machine arrives that makes maths visible.

Look at the Marble Machine (below) by Wintergartan a Swedish folktronica band, then ask your students ‘what maths was involved making this machine?’

It didn’t just happen. Some suggestions below.

Maths involved:

*length of xylphone keys. These will be accurately measured to produce the correct note. Ditto width and thickness.

*rate of rotation of gears, wheels

*parabolic path of marble falling on xylophone keys

*ratios of gear wheels

*statistics. The marbles do not always bounce indentically off the keys. So the cup needs to be big enough to capture – what?- 99.99% of the bouncing marbles. I think less. You can count the number of marbles – ball bearings – that have escaped. You can see them on the floor at the end of the video. So you can calculate the % that escape.

*timing (Each element of the machine has to be timed to create the musical effect. Not chaos.)

*Engineering Maths: Strength of laminate. This will have been tested by the manufacturer. Laminates have a much greater tensile strength than one piece of wood.

*Computer Cutting: A program exists to accurately cut out those wheels from a laminate.

*Cost

*How do you buy 2,000 marbles (ball bearings)? Do you count them? You would buy them by weight.