Proving Products

June 26, 2017 1 comment

Just now one of the great maths based pages I follow shared this:

So naturally I figured I would have a go. I thoughts just get stuck in with the algebra and see what happens, normally a good approach to these things.

My first thought was that if I use 2n – 3, 2n -1, 2n + 1 and 2n +3 then tgere would be less to simplify later. I know that (2n + 1)(2n – 1) = 4n^2 – 1 and (2n – 3)(2n + 3) = 4n^2 – 9 so I multiples these together.

(4n^2 – 1)(4n^2 -9) = 16n^4 – 40n^2 + 9

I thought the best next move would be to complete the square:

(4n^2 – 5)^2 – 16

This shows me that the product of 4 consecutive odd numbers is always 16 less than a perfect square and as such that the product of 4 consecutive odd numbers plus 16 is always a square.
(4n^2 – 5)^2 – 16 + 16 = (4n^2 – 5)^2 
A nice little proof to try next time you teach it to your year 11s.

Dumb Pride

May 10, 2017 6 comments

There’s this photo doing the rounds.

I think I saw it ages ago but it’s resurfaced recently and I keep seeing it and it’s been annoying me. I have no idea who this lady is, nor do I understand why she is so proud of being unable to do basic maths, but it got me intrigued about the papers so I downloaded them.

There are 3 papers. 1 arithmetic (40 marks) and 2 reasoning  (35 marks each). I know what you’re thinking, I thought it too, 25 percent of 110 is 27.5 and there are no half marks so it’s impossible to get 25 percent. I’ve assumed the lady in question has correctly rounded her percentage to the nearest percent and therefore got 28 marks.

I’ve looked at what marks are given for. You get 1 mark for being able to tell the time on an analogue clock. 2 marks for being able to read a bus timetable. 2 marks for being able to shade 3/4 of a shape that is split into equal parts that are a multiple of 4. 4 marks for ordering numbers. 7 marks for being able to add and subtract whole numbers, 15 marks for being able to multiply and divide by single digit numbers. That’s 31 marks. The means she didn’t even manage to get all those marks. There’s 7 more for dividing by 2 digit numbers another 8 for adding decimals  (with tricky questions such as 0.2 + 0.05) which she must have got nothing for. 2 for finding percentages of amounts, another for finding a fraction of an amount and this not to mention the marks for multiplying and dividing decimals by powers of 10. 

If I couldn’t answer those questions, I don’t think I’d be shouting about it.

Categories: Maths

Infuriatingly impossible exam questions

February 9, 2017 4 comments

Today I was working on some Vectors exam questions with my Y13 mechanics class and I came across this question:

A student had answered it and had gotten part d wrong. What he had done was this:

I have recreated is incorrect working.

Obviously he had found out when the ship was at the lighthouse, instead of 10km away. I explained this to him and started to explain how he should have tackled this when a sudden realisation angered me.

Now for those if you that didn’t work through the question, here is the actual answer:


Can you see what had me infuriated?

This is an impossible answer! If the lighthouse is on the trajectory of the ship and it will hit said lighthouse at t=3 then that would stop the ship! At the very least it would slow it down!!!! In reality it would have to avoid the lighthouse and change trajectory. Meaning the second answer, T=5, would not happen under any circumstances!

My initial thought was: “are they expecting students to spot this and discount the second answer? That’s a bit harsh.”

So I checked the markscheme:


Nope, they are looking for both answers. Argh! I can understand using a real life context in mechanics, I really can. But why not check for this sort of thing!

What do you guys think? Is this infuriating or am I just getting get up over nothing? I’d love to hear your views in the comments or via social media.

Angles or Angels?

January 26, 2017 3 comments

When I marked my year 11 books the other day I noticed that quite a few had been working that morning on “Angels in triangles’. This peturbed me a little, surely by Year 11 they should know the difference and be able to spell each one.

To counteract this massive literacy issue I played a game of “Angles and Angels”. I spoke to them first about the difference, then about the spelling and then did a show me activity where I showed them various pictures and they had to show me on their whiteboards if it was an angle or an “Angel”. I was impressed that they even got the picture of Kurt Angle,  although none of them recognised David Boreanas…..

The activity led to a discussing with a couple of them as to why it was important to discuss these things in maths lessons. Stemming from the inevitable question “why we learning about this? It’s maths not English.”

I explained my opinion that we may be learning maths, but that literacy is important in all subjects. As a maths teacher I educate these students and literacy has to be a big party of that, as I hope numeracy is a big party of those subjects that deal with numbers but aren’t maths. I also expressed the importance of maths specific vocabulary, such as ‘angles’ and how it’s not necessarily going to be covered in English.

It is these sorts of things that we need to be thinking about, literacy wise, to ensure our students are in the best position when they leave.

A nice little triangle puzzle

December 5, 2016 8 comments

Here is a nice little puzzle I saw from brilliant.org on Facebook.

Have you worked it out yet?

Here’s what I did:

First I drew a diagram (obviously).

And worked out the area of the triangle.

Then the area of each sector.


Leaving a subtraction to finish.

Categories: #MTBoS, Maths, Starters Tags: , ,

Circles puzzle

October 13, 2016 Leave a comment

Here’s a lovely puzzle I saw on Brilliant.org this week:

It’s a nice little workout. I did it entirely in my head and that is my challenge to you. Do it, go on. Do it now….

Scroll down for my answer….

Have you done it? You better have…..
I looked at this picture and my frat thought was that the blue and gold areas are congruent. Thus the entire picture has an area of 70. There are 4 overlaps, each has an area of 5, so the total area of 5 circles is 90. Leaving each circle having an area of 18.

This is a nice mental work out and I feel it could build proprtional reasoning skills in my students. I am hoping to try it on some next week.

Did you manage the puzzle? Did you do it a different way?

This post was cross posted to better questions here.

Categories: Maths, Starters Tags: , , , ,

Catchy Mnemonics 

September 16, 2016 3 comments

I find most memory aids a little silly. Why learn a rhyme about horses when you can just learn the trig ratios? Why learn a rhyme about the duke of York when you can just remember the order the colours come in?

However, I find that music is a good way of remembering things. For some reason music is good for us to remember words. I can, for instance, remember the words to a great deal of 90s pop songs even though I didn’t like them and never chose to listen to them because I heard them out places and on TV so often that they got lodged in my brain forever. 

This is something I have seen work well in learning maths facts. Year on year I hear pupils sing “mean is average, mean is average…” etc in lessons to remember the averages. And I also hear a great many variations on the circle song.

Last year when I was teaching kinematics one of the students said “Sir,play the SUVAT song.” I’d not heard of the SUVAT song and he found it on you tube and we listened to it. It’s simple and it’s catchy and it really helped him and his class remember those equations. So on Tuesday I played it to one of my mechanics classes. By the end of the leson I’d heard three people sing it and it has been stuck in my head all week.

What do you think about mnemonics? Do they have a place? Have you any songs or rhymes that you use to remember things or that you encourage students to use? And do they help?

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