Posts Tagged ‘interesting’


Mean, Median and Coffee: Busting an Urban Myth

April 21, 2017


A Fun Maths Exercise.

Students count steps.

No units of length used. 

You can find the free pdf worksheet  (included below) here.

Other fun middle school math(s) worksheets in the Hot Heels series at TpT include

Unit Rates, Angles, Ratios and Algebra.

There is a lot of maths and science behind coffee sloshing in a coffee mug. ‘The human stride has almost exactly the right frequency to drive the natural oscillations of coffee’ explains fluid physicists at the University of California at Santa Barbara. You will find their full explanation here.



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.







May 2, 2016

Mathspig Funny maths blogs

You will find the background pattern here.

Screen shot 2016-05-02 at 3.03.19 PM

1 Header

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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3. Header

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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4. Header

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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7. Header

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



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8. header math cartoon

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.


10 Amazing RANDOM Maths Blogs

April 5, 2016

Happy SR Day

It is Mathspig’s Mission to bring you news of some of the most practical, inspiring and intriguing maths blogs, tumblr posts and Twitter feeds out there in the blogosphere. And what a great day to do this. Happy Square Root Day people! (from Mathematica Curiosa below)


Happy Square Root Day

The following blogs et al fall into the RANDOM but totally intriguing category. Enjoy! 

1. 1 logo Radom Mathspig

The background pattern is antagonist from here.

When not writing and hosting Quick and Dirty Tips’ Math Dude podcast, Jason Marshall works as a research scientist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) studying the infrared light emitted by starburst galaxies and quasars. Here he is as The Maths Dude:


And here he is as an Astrophysicist dude:

1. Random Mathspig






2. Logo RAndom Mathspig

Curiosa Mathematica is run by Jens Bossaert. It shows extraudinary images such as the animation by two cubes  showing the roots of the polynomials x⁵ + tx + 1 and x⁵ + tx² + 1  as t varies. (Shown without animation below) I’d tell you lots more about Jens except his homepage is in Dutch!!!

2. Random Mathspig



3. Logo Random Mathspig

LIFE THROUGH A MATHEMATICIAN’S EYES is a tumblr feed run anonymously but fabulously by a self-described ‘professional mathematical concept disrupter’ who ‘believes that the study of mathematics is like air or water to our technological society’.

3b Random Mathspig



4. Logo Random Mathspig

Try and Touch My Asymptote  Got Math? is an annonymous Tumblr stream that is a popouri of all sorts of maths brick-a-brack such as the treasure below..

4. RAndom Mathspig



5. Logo Random Mathspig

Into The Continuum is self-described as a perspective on mathematics, the pattern, and the abstract. This anonymous Tumblr feed not only provides amazing moving patterns, it gives you the code as well. Awesome!!! Here is one, sadly stationary, pattern below.

5a. RAndom Mathspig



6. Logo Random Mathspig

Robert Kaplinsky has worked in education since 2003 as a classroom teacher, district math teacher specialist, and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) instructor. He uses maths to answer some really intrguing questions such as the one below. ‘What was the fastest motorcycle speeding ticket ever?’ is pretty scary!!!!!!!

6. Random Mathspig



7. Logo Random Mathspig

Math Prof for Life Tumblr stream uses random comments linked to hilarious gifs. The prof knows, he really knows, how maths students feel … on a bad maths day.

7a Random Mathspig

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8. Logo Random Mathspig

The Reflective Educator is the Tumblr stream of David Wees, a Canadian Maths teacher. His web page is full of all sorts of interesting reflections on how to teach maths.

8b RAndom Mathspig8c Random Mathspig



9. Logo RAndom Mathspig

Center of Math is an anonymous Twitter feed which is a glad bag of maths ideas, suggestions, diversions and jokes. Intersesting stuff. Here rre some fab examples of posts.

9a RAdom Mathspig

9b Random Mathspig

It’s a pun … maths pun. (Hint: A little fishy.)

9c Random Mathpsig



10. Logo RAndom MathspigMath Jokes Twitter is literally an endless stream of maths jokes. Who knew there were so many?  And what better way to start the day than with a maths joke. Here are a couple.

10b Random Mathspig

10c Random Mathspig



Lego Mean, Median, Mode

January 15, 2016

Students can calculate the Mean, Median and Mode using Lego. Here is the exciting part:

The lego stacks become the graph


Draw a graph of No. of Blocks Vs No. of Prongs (per block) Make sure all blocks are the same height.

Mean median mode Lego 1

Start with 40 bricks.

Mean median mode Lego 2

Sort into Stacks to create graph of

 No. Prongs Vs No. Bricks

Mean median mode Lego 2a

This is a close up of the stacks above.

Mean median mode Lego 3

The no. of bricks in each stack is written on top of the stack.



Mathspig is Going to the ICME Hamburg 2016 …………………………Woo Hoo!

December 21, 2015

Mathpig ICME 2016

Hello Little Munchins,

Much to the amazement of many, including my piggy-self, Mathspig is off to present a workshop at the International Congress on Mathematical Education, Hamburg, 2016. Mathspig was surpised and delighted, of course, because humour and maths are often considered polar opposites.

Here, in part, is the workshop I will present:

How many m&ms would kill a 14-year-old?

Making middle-school maths real, relevant, deadly serious and π-in-your-face funny!

I always loved, loved, loved maths at school, at university and teaching maths for 10 years. In 2009 I became Mathspig, funster maths blogger and guru to show teachers at conferences that maths could be fun.

By then I had been working as a journalist, humourist and public speaker for 25 years. Coming back to maths after such a break, I was hit with a mathematical epiphany. Suddenly, I realised that all of the maths problems I had solved at school, at university and teaching involved answers that were meaningless to me. All I wanted was to get them right and move on.

So I set out to ask maths questions that have answers middle-school students, especially, will want to know.

How much do they stretch models’ legs using Photoshop? How do you calculate ramp distances for a stunt motorbike jump? How long does it take a 14 year old to bleed to death from an arrow wound? How many calories – for Twilight fans – are in a litre of blood? Why should Headbangers study geometry? Could you return Andy Murray’s serve? How old is your hair? Why was trigonometry needed to produce the CGI image of Merida’s curly hair in the movie, BRAVE?

Travel Pig 2016

And here,for those of you looking to make middle school maths real, relevant, deadly serious and π-in-your-face funny are just some of the relevant links:

Odd Bods in Marie Claire: How much do they stretch modles legs in magazines?

Stuntman Jump: The trigonometry of Motor Bike Ramps

Hunger Games: Surivival Maths 1: How long would it take a 14-year-old to bleed to death from an arrow wound?


How man calories in a litre of blood? And therefore, how many Shi Tzus would a health young Vampire need to get their blood fix each night?

Why do Headbangers need Geometry?

Could you return Andy Murray’s serve?

How old is your hair?

Why CGI hair needs maths. Maybe they need more maths than we first thought if you look at the CGI hair of the characters below.


This could be interesting, I’ll keep you breifed.


Your International Star Performer,