Posts Tagged ‘ideas’


Trick 8: Spooky Maths Magic

May 4, 2018

Spooky Maths Magic

Requirements; Smart board/data projector.

 This is mental maths, but not hard maths. You can play this video by Marco Frezza  directly to the class.

It may not work on everybody, but it would be very interesting to see how many students are fooled by this spooky magic man.


Trick 9: Coin Trick. How to throw 10 HEADS in a row!!!!

April 30, 2018

Requirements: A coin for each student & smart board or data projector.

First ask your students to toss a coin 10 times each.

Ask each student how many heads in a row they threw.

Now ask students ‘Do you think it is possible to throw 10 heads in a row?

It can be done. Here is how you do it.

Derren Brown is a UK mentalist, magician, hypnotist and maths guru. He’s awesome. He shows audiences how a lack of understanding maths, especially probability, leads to misinterpreting the facts.

Now play this video to the students:


Trick 10: A Foolproof Gambling System

April 23, 2018

Math Mentalist Devises Foolproof Gambling System

Requirements: Smart board/Data Projector

or Chalk & Talk

This is the most awesome way to introduce probability.

Mentalist Derren Brown devises a foolproof gambling system. He sends a girl , Kadisha, the number of a winning horse in race to be run the next day. It wins. He sends her the winning horse and race number 4 more times. She ends up with winnings close to £ 1000 before the final race. Derren convinces her to borrow money for the last bet. She does. She places £4,000 on a horse. Did it win?????

Watch Part 5 of The System



If you are not convinced Derren Brown can come up with a foolproof system for horse race tipping, let me explain The System. He took 7,776 e-mail addresses, divided them into 6 equal groups and sent each group a different number for a horse in a 6 horse race to be run the next day. Naturally, one group of 1296 had been given the winning horse number.  This group was divided into 6 again and given the number of the ‘winning’ in a six horse race the next day and so on.

Race 1: 7776

Race 2: 1296

Race 3: 216

Race 4: 36

Race 5: 6

Out of 7776 punters, only one punter was given in advance five horse race winners in a row. Was it Kadisha. You will have to watch the Youtube above.

You can watch THE SYSTEM in full here. It takes 47 mins.


Crazy Ways to Make Middle School Maths Cool

November 11, 2016



I started my maths workshop in Hamburg by stirring up some friendly rivalry.  And what better way to do this than by using statistics.

Which is the biggest country?

Australia is 21.5 times the area of Germany. So I counted off 22 workshop participants and pointed to one saying ‘Your’re Germany! Ha!’ Here’s another way to compare areas:


Which country has the largest population?

Germany has 3.5 times the population of Australia.

But the really interesting questions are:

Who drinks more beer?

Who eats more meat?

Here are the answers to these and other interesting questions from the introduction to my workshop with apologies to Brisbane and Perth:

Here are some amazing ways to make middle school maths AMAZING:

1. Defronting the Maths Classroom

2. Amazing German Maths Blog

3. m&ms and Exponential functions

4. Take a Mandelbrot Set Selfie

5. Best Fun with Algebra Ever

6. The Multi-legged Beast that Walks

7. Maths You Hold in Your Hand

8. Are you Maths Blind?

9. Real World Maths Selfies 

10. Magical Music Machine built with Maths

And don’t forget:

Maths News from around the World


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



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

August 23, 2016

10 Funky, fab and Fantastic

Funky, Fab and Fantastic INTRO

Maths today is invisible.

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.


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

*Any more suggestions?