Posts Tagged ‘inspiring’


41 Maths things to do before you’re 12

March 25, 2019

Mathspig outdoor play quote

mathspig outdoor-play-app

A growing body of research shows us that outdoor play leads to better physical and mental health, has positive effects on cognitive function and learning, and reduces the incidence of behavioural problems.” Maria Zotti, Nature Play, SA.

Peter Dunstan, Principal Kilkenny PS, SA, writes in SAPPA magazine, Primary Focus, that outdoor play fosters “wonderment, independence and freedom” as well as “social skills, imagination, creativity and problem solving”.

Inspired by SAPPA and NaturePlay,  Mathspig has produced her own outdoorsy maths list:

 Mathspig 41 maths things 1Mathspig 41 maths things 2mathspig 41 maths things 3

Mathspig 41 maths things 4mathspig 41 maths things 5


7. Robin Hood Give us your best shot.

9. You can measure the volume of your lungs by blowing one breath into a balloon and pushing it into a full bucket of water. Measure the overflow.

15: Outdoor Maths: Times Tables

21. Light intensity links. Here and here.

25.  Sound Volume Measurement

36. Killer heels that really kill.



February 11, 2019

Mathspig Funny maths blogs

You will find the background pattern here.

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The absolute delight of Spurious Correlations is its craziness. Tyler Vigen is studying law at Harvard Law School, but he puts together the most ridiculous data you can imagine to show the correlation between eg. Per capita cheese consumption AND the number of people who died by getting tangled in their bed sheets, people who drowned after falling out of a fishing boat AND the marriage ration Kentucky. Of course, what Tyler is demonstrating is the basic maths principle, mathspiggies, that correlation is not causation. Here is one of his fabulous graphs:

 1a Spurious Correlations Graph

Here is one graph from Spurious Correlati0ns (above) and the cover of Tyler’s New Book (below).

1b book cover

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 2. HeaderMath with Bad Drawings is run by Ben Orlin. He describes himself as ‘a math maths teacher in Birmingham, England. Before that, I taught in Oakland, California. I’ve taught (or am currently teaching!) every level of mathematics from ages 12 to 18.’

Not only is Ben’s humorous and fascinating take on maths interesting, his philosophy of life is worth a read too. e.g. We are all simultaneously experts and beginners, flaunting our talents while trying to cover our shortcomings the way an animal hides a wound.’

Here are two delightful examples of his maths with bad drawings:

2a. Maths with bad drawings2b. Maths with bad drawings

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Mathspig has written about the fabulous What if? blog before.

Randall Munroe is a pro web cartoonist, maths nut and maths guru who answers crazy hypothetical questions using maths. His home website is xkcd.

His TED lecture is here.

Randall offers this warning to his KXCD blog: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors). Of course, this makes his blog even more interesting. Maths, profanity and silly humour. Bring it on.

How What if? blog asks and answers interesting questions:

What would happen if I dug straight down, at a speed of 1 foot per second? What would kill me first?

Could a bird deliver a standard 20″ New York-style cheese pizza in a box? And if so, what kind of bird would it take?

Here is one example:

3a What if ?

 3b What if?

And his book What if? Can be found here.

 3c What if? book cover

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The joy of Yan’s One Minute Math blog is his eclectic collection of topics from . Kow-Cheong Yan is a Singapore-based teacher, math consultant, math blogger and maths book author (Grade 1- 6).


The Lighter Side of Innumeracy gives an insight into maths incompetence and superstition in Singapore. It shows that charlatans can still prey on the innumerate. And Yan’s critique of Drill-and-Kill texts promoted in Singapore is refreshing in an age where politicians are forever calling for Back-to-basics teaching methods for maths.


 But my favourite post on Yan’s blog is;

Mathematical Fiction is not optional. The number of novels using maths as a theme is inspiring especially with Yan adding a comment like this:

If you’re looking for math, women, sex, and back-stabbing, The Wild Numbers (Philibert Schogt) is a math melodrama unlikely to disappoint.


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5. header mathjokes4mathyfolks

Mathjokes4mathyfolks is run by my good math(s) friend Patrick Vennebush, who lives in Virginia with his wife, twin boys and his Golden Retriever Remy. He loves math(s), laughing and telling jokes. He also runs online projects for National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

5a. Patrick

Patrick believes math(s) should be fun and his blog includes jokes, problems and real-life challenges. His collection of jokes is published in a book and cover the gamete from cool to Dad-style jokes. Here’s an example:

5b book cover5c joke

Here are some examples from his blog:

Simultaneous Equations and Pizza

5d pizza problem

Angle of Opportunity looks at the angle a boy should pee in the toilet bowl without splatter fallout!!!!

5d pee angle

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6 header mathfail

Here is Math Fail on Facebook. And here is the Math Fail blog run by Self proclaimed Math Geek Mike, who explains that in addition to math fails, you will find a huge collection of geeky math jokes, interesting math facts, dumb math news, puzzles, speed math advice, math related comics, funny math pictures and more!! (It is not a Cheeseburger Fail blog.)

It is just a fun blog to explore. Here are some examples.

6a Math Fail

6b Math Fail

6c Math FAil

6d Math Fail

Who can be offended? They’re just numbers!!!!

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Debbie O’Sullivan’s pinterest stream Math Puns/Jokes is worth a visit or two.



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The Math Cartoons & Humor is pinterest run by Jiji the penguin. Actually, the penguin didn’t do it. Jiji the penguin is the mascot of STMath, a commercial education system that teaches math visually, and with minimum language, in the USA. Here are some examples of the humor: 8a



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9. header mathmashup

Mashup Math is mind blowing from its math philosophy to its eclectic approach. Anthony Persico runs MashUp Math. He has taught in NY, VA, and CO and runs a YouTube channel. He believes in inclusive math education,that all students learn math differently and that the one-size-fits-all approach is ineffective. The worksheets, teacher resources supplied via mathmashup are FREE!

9a Anthony pic

Here is the Facebook link to Mathmashup:

9b slope

This is a screen shot of  his roller coaster youtube clip on gradient or slope!!!

Here is his Mathsmashup You Tube channel (above), which is designed to help visual learners.


Here are some amazing sports stats (above) from the LA Times. Basketball Legend Kobe Bryant’s 30,699th and final field goal came from 19 feet with 31 seconds left against the Utah Jazz. This picture below shows every one of the 30,699 goals he scored. AMAAAAAAZING!

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10 header math antics

Math Antics Youtube Channel is run by, Rob and Jeremy, who are both funny and clear in their maths clips, which are directed mainly at Middle school. The youtube lessons are free, but Rob and Jeremy do charge teachers US$20 for a year of worksheets.

Their Math Antics website is here.

10a base 10

Base 10 video screen grab.

10b Order of Operation

Order of Operations Screen grab.


Awesome Math Mural

May 28, 2018

This math mural is on a high school wall, somewhere. It works because it has a street art vibe. Not a grade school math book look. That’s cool. 

Why not do something like this for your school.


3.  Everyone Hates Maths Anyway

October 25, 2017

The Complaint: Everyone Hates Maths Anyway


The Cause:

Students absorb maths fear and loathing from peers, siblings, parents and the culture. eg.

From the TwoFatDudes blog.

The Solution:

Invite interesting guest speakers to talk to students. Other subjects do this. Bring in a cool young ex-student and attitudes can change, fast.

Otherwise show them these videos. The first video especially is AWESOME and totally, totally COOL.

Cool Guys talk about Math:

Here are their blogs:

Patrick JMT

Maths stories about death, tragedy and comedy in maths

Tyler De Witt

On Scientific Notation

On Significant Figures and using significant figures this video has had 1 MILLION hits.

Paul Andersen Bozeman Channel

Structure and Function of the Brain


7b. Middle School Maths Photo Scavenger Hunt

September 3, 2017

The Complaint: Maths is really SCARY!…………….


The Cause:

Some students think maths is always right or wrong and they are scared of making mistakes.


The Solution:

Go on a Maths Photo Scavenger Hunt. There is no right or wrong. Just see what maths you can find out there.


The Challenge:………………………………………………………

Can you find the following maths out there somewhere and bring back photographic evidence?


Multiple Topics


The Challenge

Maths Photo Scavenger Hunt Worksheet PDF

More interesting Maths Selfies here.


9. I Hate Answering Questions in Class: BUSTED

August 10, 2017

The Complaint:


9. I Hate Answering Questions in Front of the Class


The Cause:

Students worry about getting the answer wrong in front of the class because they believe that maths answers are always either RIGHT or WRONG.

The Solution:

The maths we need in the REAL world often involves open ended questions. Think of finding directions on Google Maps. What is the best way to get from A to B? One route might be shorter but include tollways another might involve longer distances but less traffic. 

Text book problems are often repetitive with RIGHT answers at the back of the book. But in the real world maths problems nearly always involve THINKING. eg. A building design might require specific engineering maths. Now add costing! That’s an open question. There are many options. Maybe the costing will then change the engineering. Build 20 stories instead of 25.

Thinking Outside the box in Education: Info and Toolbox: here

Prof Peter Liljedahl, Faculty of Edu, Simon Fraser Uni, Canada, advocates  open ended questions in the maths classroom.

Here are some of his examples for Year 7 -9 (Download pdf file at the link):

Concert in Toronto;

You have won tickets to a concert in Toronto but must plan your trip using flight times to arrive at the concert by 9pm.

Two Bike Race:

You are in a bike race and have to use a street bike and trail bike, but one bike must be left somewhere on the route.  You travel at different speeds depending on which bike you use. What route do you take? (A basic map is included.)

Something inspiring:

Maths is often about playing around with answers. This is how play led a class of 12 year olds to produce a peer reviewed research paper published in a science journal.


1. Middle School Madness: BIG MATHS

June 12, 2017


Community Maths can involve the school community or the wider, local community. The aim is to get maths out of the classroom and make it a hands-on experience.

Set up displays, posters, demonstrations or art/maths projects in your school library, gym or school yard or take some interesting maths to the local library, strip mall, town hall, local gardens or shopping mall. It will mean planning the project, collecting the materials and making a phone call to  the local, say, librarian, but libraries, for instance, welcome community involvement.

Here are just some community maths project ideas.


Major maths conferences around the world have poster displays. So why not a display of students maths posters in your school library or local library or even a nearby shopping mall. And students should be present at allocated times to explain their poster to other students, parents or members of the public.

Roosevelt Middle School students Jacob Klausner and Oliver Adelson WEST ORANGE, NJ, who were finalists heading to the National MathCon Competition.

Some of the best middle school maths posters can be found at MathsCareers, UK. Here are some posters from the 2016 competitions.

Winner 9 – 11 years Maths Poster Competition

Fatimah Patel Preston Girls High School

Runner Up 9 – 11 years Maths Poster Competition

Maja Kowalska McAuley Catholic High School

Winner 12-13 years Maths and Music Poster Competition

Laeticia Junanto Bancrofts School



Maths students can construct displays that involve interesting maths. The most amazing maths dispalys Mathspig has seen were at the 13e Salon Culture & Jeux  Mathematique in Paris. Here is LAGA Phd student Attouchi @ the 13e Salon Culture & Jeux  Mathematique in Paris.

She was showing students how to use a graph to create anamorphic projections. More detailed instructions here!!!

Palestinian Maths teacher Daina Taimina has many zany ideas. You’ll more Creative Maths ideas here.

Mentalist Maths … OK. This may include some Card Tricks … but they’re amazing. You’ll find 10 amazing Mentalist Math Tricks here.

Make some interesting cubes here.

Give students a variety of maths challenges they have to solve

like these Maths Mystery Box Challenges here.

Or let students explore some of the inspiring maths websites and pick a project. You will love the amazing German website IMAGINARY. It’s in English and has some fascinating videos!!!!!

Perhaps students could construct double pendulum like this one demonstrated at the MiMa-Museum, Oberwolfach, Germany. Mathspig can’t stop watching it. Fascinating!!!!!!! The double pendulum has some demanding trigonometry, but at the middle school level the 2D graph traced by the lower pendulum is fascinating enough (Below). And maths can provide equations for this movement. That’s impressive.



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


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

September 7, 2016


Funky, Fab and Fantastic INTRO

The Maths Mystery Box is a great treasure chest to take into maths classes. It can be used an an extension exercise or to engage some disengaged students.


The IDEA is to use concrete objects and write a maths problem to go with the object. (See examples below) The appeal of the MATHS MYSTERY BOX is that it involves CONCRETE THINKING, sort of.  All text books involve ABSTRACT thinking, which some students do not like.


A student picks a maths problem from the box. A problem can be simple or complex. But it is not just a maths problem. The student gets to hold an object in their hand. They have to devise their own method of approach. And they must be resourceful. ie. use equipment at hand eg. their phone as a stop watch. Students like this activity. Even maths teachers like this activity as Mathspig found out at her workshop in Hamburg.










This is what the graph should look like.


Bob the Beetle moves very fast and students have to use available tools eg. phones to calculate his speed.



You’ll find the answer here.



Safety Lecture: Do not flick at anyone. But it is fun.






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.