Posts Tagged ‘mathspig’


Have Yourself a Mathsy Little Christmas

December 13, 2016





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. 


When Pi Day is sooooo Embarrassing

March 10, 2016

Mathspig Pi Day

In Australia we don’t get too carried away with 14 March aka Pi Day aka 3.14.16 because, unlike Americans,  we do not write the date as 3/14/16. We prefer 14/3/16.

No problem.

Meanwhile Mathspig called her upcoming talk for the International Congress of Mathematical Education 2016 in Hamburg:

How many m&ms would kill a 14-year-old? Making middle-school maths real, relevant, deadly serious and π-in-your-face funny!

Then  odd emails arrived relabelling my talk  ‘…….. p-in-your-face funny!’

I thought it was a typo. Not so! The Germans, the Dutch and other European countries do not call π ‘Pi’, they call it ‘P’ or ‘Pee’ because ‘i’ is pronounced ‘ee’, for instance, in German. So I had called my great international maths talk Pee-in-your-face funny! And the German organising committee seemed happy enough with the title.

To be diplomatic and to avoid the attracting the wrong type of audience I’ve retitled my talk:

How many m&ms would kill a 14-year-old? Making middle-school maths real, relevant, deadly serious and ha^2 funny!

So Happy π Day English speakers and now, for a laugh, look at some of our Pi or Pee jokes through the eyes of, say, a German.

Mathspig Happy Pi Day Europe

Pi Day 2

That’s because of the beer.


One whole day dedicated to pi.

It’s epic!

Pi Day 3

Mathematicians in love .., awwww!

So cute or they’re pissed.


Pi Day 4

OK. ‘I 8 sum pi’ but adding the ‘delicous’ makes this weird for a German. D’Oh!

pi Day 5

Very expensive bottle of pi.

Pi day 6

Mmmm! Pecan pi.

Pi Day 8

Rabbit Pi must be a problem.

Pi Day 10

Dessert wine, maybe?

Pi Day 9

That’s, like, every day after a night out on the ‘piss’ as we so delicately call it in Australia.

pi Day 11

You too can have tasty pi. I don’t know how and frankly, I don’t want to know.


Maths isn’t TOO HARD; it’s TOO BORING, Sir!

January 15, 2016

Lego Mathspig 2

Hello my little Peeps,

In 2012 The New York Times ran an article by Andrew Hacker titled ‘Is Algebra Necessary?’ The argument was, basically, that too many students find algebra difficult and colleges in America use math results to screen students thus further disadvanting already disadvantaged students. The author had a point. eg. Of all who embark on higher education, only 58 percent end up with bachelor’s degrees. The main impediment to graduation: freshman math.

Perhaps, algebra could be taught in a different way. Mathspig was inspired by New York Grade 3 teacher, Alycia Zimmerman, who uses Lego to teach fractions (See next post) and came up with the following examples.

Lego Mean, Median and Mode

Lego Algebra

But Mathspig has always lerved Lego Maths. Here are just a few examples;

Ratios: Lego Olympics

Ratios: The Rosetta Project Scaled down to a Lego Universe

Other links to Lego Maths.

And while you are doing your Lego Maths you an also use the Lego Template to design your own Lego Figurine.

Screen shot 2016-01-15 at 3.33.52 PM

Download Template here.

Have fun peeps.





Volcano Survivor 1: Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, 2014.

November 7, 2014

Can you out run a lava flow?

dantes_peak_ver2In every volcano disaster movie from Volcano (1997) with Tommy Lee Jones to Dante’s Peak (1997) with Pierce Brosnan someone somewhere tries to out run a lava flow.

Is this possible? (See movie cliché busted by maths here.)

Now a lava flow from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is threatening tiny town of Pahoa, Hawaii. (below).

1 Kilauea Volcano   USGS

You will find excellent information about the Kilauea and other volcanoes at the

US Geological Survey here.

How to stop lava?

As the temperature of lava exceeds 10000 C there are very few ways to stop lava. According to the Taylor Kate Brown SMH (10 SEPT 2014) options include:


Blasting (it with cold water)

Barricading it

Or adding concrete.

What if you are on your own.

Can you out run lava?

Lets do the maths.

Lava from Kilauea travels 17 yards per hour so the lava velocity is:

VL =   17 yds/hour = 15.5 metres /hour


Mathspig simultaneous eqn 1



March 31, 2014

0 SOLUTION DRsign post

Reading Undiluted Hocus-Pocus, the autobiography of Martin Gardener, mathematician and magician (He wrote the puzzle column for scientific America for years), Mathspig was bemused to read that statistician William Feller lived on Random Road in Princeton.

Mathspig totally confused Google Maps by searching for so many Maths streets, roads, drives, lanes and crescents. Mr Google began to think Mathspig was stuck on Infinity Street or lost at Cartesian Place.

What place boasts the most mathematical street names in the world (so far):

1. Paris

There are nearly 100 Parisian streets, squares, boulevards etc. named after mathematicians and not necessarily French mathematicians.

1 paris


Street names include:

Rue Laplace

Rue Bernoulli

Rue Newton

2 Rue Fourier_2

There is, surprisingly, no street named after Fourier in Paris. But the street on which he was born in Auxerre has been renamed after this great mathematician.


2. Salisbury, South Australia

Surprisingly, the most ‘mathsy’ place Mathspig has discovered so far is an outer suburb of Adelaide, south Australia. Maths street names include:

3. Salisbury SA

Equation Rd

Parallell Ave

Chord Rd

Log Rd

Tangent Ave

Quadrant Ave      

Meridian Rd

Degree Rd

Decimal Rd

Latitude Rd

Co-ordinate RD

Fibonacci in Budafest Not by name, by design.

Fibonacci in Budafest
Not by name, by design.

3. New York, NY, USA

You can’t get lost in New York. It is a grid city.

5. New York

Eg. 812 East 23rd St means No. 12, block 8 East of Broadway.

6. sine curve road

There is a Sine Rd in Auburn New York,

but it’s not this one. Pity!

Here is a fun Maths exercise to get Middle School students thinking about maths.

Maths Street Challenge


Ans. 1. Massey, NZ. 2. TRIANGLE. 3. State Ave 4. 0.7 miles, 1.1 km. 5. It has 3 right angles 6. 0.4 miles, 0.6 km. 7. No. The triangle is not a right angle triangle. 8. David W Carter Hight School) 9. Only 2 ARITHMETIC CR, Landon, SC and ARITHMETIC Dr, Salem, MA. 10. O.4 miles, 0.6 km.

Advance Maths St Challenge