I know that half the people seeing the title of this post will hate any positive reference towards the discipline of mathematics.
A childhood spent hating the many hours wasted in stuffy Maths classrooms trying to get your head round pointless equations and formulas will certainly see to that. Believe me, two of my housemates at university were Maths students and I’m pretty sure they would have agreed with a rather negative response towards Maths!
As for the other half, (and this may well be where my former housemates are now situated!) they’ll be firmly in agreement about the beauty in the logic of Maths. As a subject, it has so much depth and colour to it that it many ways it is as mesmerising as a glorious sunset.
Allow me to explain.
A while back now, my headteacher asked me to get involved in Maths as a subject at our school. Through his influence and expertise, I’ve been able to find out lots about how the teaching of Maths is progressing the influence of East Asian techniques in particular to help children “get it”.
In my time, I’ve seen lots of children who quite understandably run a mile when faced with a tricky-looking Maths problem because they have no way of knowing how to even access it, let alone think about solving it.
However, thanks to a lot of recent training, I’ve recently discovered my own love of problem solving in Maths and a previously untapped desire to get more and more involved in it.
For instance, I found this guy, Alex Bellos who works for the Guardian. He is big on maths puzzles and likes to set them for a captive audience via his Guardian webpage. And he always has a captive audience! The comments section goes crazy – I never realised people were so passionate about Maths until I started getting involved in it!
I used to be quite suspicious of Maths problems – they seemed to take a long time to solve and when teaching, only a few children would ever get there without copious amounts of help. From that though, I learned I needed to create a learning environment much more conducive to problem solving and discovery – that way children are unafraid to have a go and have a range of tools at their disposal.
Maths is a fascinating subject. It is full of links and patterns, from number to shapes to data. It can be found in every discipline, from natural sciences to history to music and underpins the world in which we live in. If I’d known that when I was at primary school, it probably would have blown my mind!
Anyway, in terms of problems, I particularly enjoyed the carnage over the GCSE questions a few weeks ago. The one with Hannah’s sweets that went viral? I think my brain works too simplistically but I solved it in a way that was far removed from how the Maths teacher demonstrated it on BBC breakfast. Maybe that’s a good thing? Or maybe it’s the reason why I never did Maths beyond GCSE – I’m not sure!
Hannah has 6 orange sweets and some yellow sweets.
Overall, she has n sweets.
The probability of her taking 2 orange sweets is 1/3.
Prove that: n^2-n-90=0
^ is “to the power of”
But maybe you’ve seen those and fancy more of a challenge? Have a look at the ones on this blog. Worth a try, right?
Finally, and this is aimed at primary school finishers and secondary school starters, take on the Quest of Nine. You know you want to!
Let me know how you get on! And if you find any other good maths puzzle website, do not hesitate to let me have a go.