A new unit of measurement- The Tesco

28 04 2010

It’s difficult to imagine what £1.4 trillion actually looks like. That’s approximately the value of everything produced in the UK in one year (the GDP). I find it very hard to imagine how big sums of money are once they get above a few thousand pounds and I don’t think I’m alone. There is an excellent solution to this problem published this week on the BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8638714.stm

Rather than thinking about large sums of money in pounds, we need to think of it in terms of Tescos. The Tesco is a great new unit of measurement! Read the rest of this entry »


Our first puzzle- What’s the time?

27 04 2010

We’ll regularly be posting puzzles on our website to test your maths brains! We’ll try to make them easy enough so everyone can understand but challenging enough to make everyone have to think hard! Once you’ve worked out the answer share it and how you worked it out with the world by writing it in the comments section below!

What’s the time?

How many minutes is it until six o’clock if fifty minutes ago it was four times as many minutes past three o’clock?

If you can work it out, explain your answer in the comments section below!

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How to: expand brackets

25 04 2010

So you’re looking at the exam paper and you see a question that looks something like this:

Expand 3(2x + 5)

You’re thinking to yourself, ‘what do I do?’ and ‘what does expand mean?’ Read the rest of this entry »

Icelandic volcano vs European Aviation. Who’s emitting the most CO2?

18 04 2010

This fantastic diagram popped up on the twitter feed earlier today. It’s authors are the excellent website www.informationisbeautiful.net . It compares the weights of CO2 emitted each day by European aviation and the infamous Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull.

I think it’s a beautiful diagram which really gives you a sense of how large man’s effect on the planet is. I love the way they have used the relative sizes of the triangles to compare the weights of CO2. The difference in sizes of the shapes is such a more powerful communication device than just quoting the numbers. It’s ironic how something that is relatively so small can totally handcuff the larger manmade bully. Nature’s revenge!

I’d thoroughly recommend a look at their website. There’ lots more great visualisations.

What do you think about the diagram? Which bits of it do you like? What do you think it is telling us?

Here’s a great satellite picture from NASA showing the ash plume moving from Iceland towards Scotland.

NASA satellite picture of the ash plume from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. Scotland is in the bottom of the picture.

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It’s just so beautiful

16 04 2010

“Mathematics possesses not only truth, but also supreme beauty”

-Bertrand Russell (English Logician and Philosopher 1872-1970)

Bertrand Russell

What did he mean by this? Do you believe him? Have you ever seen anything in maths that you think is beautiful?

When considering what to put in this post, I had to sift through literally dozens of beautiful and mysterious things that I’ve seen in maths including:

  • The idea that all natural numbers (except one) can be made by just multiplying together prime numbers. What is a prime number?
  • That insects called cicadas spend most of their lives underground as grubs but then pupate and come out of their burrows after 13 or 17 years (prime numbers) after which they live for only a few weeks. Why is this interesting? It is thought that they do this because it would make it hard for predators to have evolved that could specialise in eating only the cicadas. If instead they appeared in intervals which were not prime numbers, say every 15 years, predators appearing every 1, 3 and 5 years would definitely meet (and eat) them. Amazing!
  • Pythagoras’ Theorem about how you can work out the length of sides in right angled triangles. The history of this one is amazing, seeing how he proved it with only geometry rather than with algebra.
  • The idea of irrational numbers. Those are the ones that have an infinite number of non repeating numbers after the decimal point. I find this fascinating because infinity is such a hard idea to get your head around.

All these things are interesting, but, for me there has always been one thing that totally amazed me and it’s to do with a really simple bit of maths that seems to appear in all sorts of different places in nature: Fibonacci Numbers. Read the rest of this entry »

We are live!

15 04 2010


Thanks for visiting our brand new blog! As you can see, there’s not a log on here yet but don’t worry about that; over time we’ll be filling this page will loads of great blogs making maths easy and fun for everyone.

Our plans for this blog are to regularly post interesting and useful articles about maths that show you what great fun it can be and also to help you understand more about this great subject! Please get involved with the site as much as possible and help our blog grow. Rate our posts, leave comments, sign up for blog updates and send suggestions for articles that you’d like to see on the blog. Please feel free to email us your ideas and comments to:


Thanks for reading and we really look forward to showing you how interesting and fun maths is!