Monthly Archives: November 2014

December 2014 News

Dear All,

This months’ newsletter is a few days early due to an email received from Fox News but more about that later.

This newsletter is for December so may I begin by wishing you a very happy Christmas. Many schools have special festive events in the weeks leading up to Christmas and Mathematics lessons can also have a seasonal theme. Here at Transum Mathematics there is a ChristMaths page linking to all sorts of yuletide linked mathematics. One of the time-honoured seasonal mathematical puzzles involves working out the total number of gifts received according to the song ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’. If you don’t know the song there are many versions of it online but the gist is that the obsessed lover delivers more and more presents on each of the 12 days of the holiday. Pupils are usually able to arrive at the answer themselves but there is no better way to check the answer than with some music. Scroll down the Twelve Days of Christmas starter page to find a musical excerpt from a Natalie Cole song in which she sings the answer!

Last week I received an email from the Fox News and Business Network in New York. They were asking for permission to use a diagram on Transum Mathematics in a forthcoming news programme. Unfortunately the numbers on the diagram were made-up figures for illustrative purposes only so it seemed the time was right to gather some real data. That is the reason this newsletter is being sent early. I would like to ask you to add to the data before the broadcast next week. I haven’t told you exactly the mathematical twist here but that will become evident when you answer the eight very simple questions:

… and if you could get your pupils to answer the questions online too that would be a real bonus!

Last Month’s Updates

The most surprisingly successful new activity on Transum Mathematics is the Dump-A-Dice Race game. It is designed for pupils needing practice recognising square and prime numbers up to 100 (that’s everyone isn’t it?) and is presented in the form of an online board game. It can be played by up to four players so provides an ideal opportunity to break from individual work. As the name suggests, the moves are determined by rolling online dice but, so that it is not purely a game of chance, three dice are rolled and the player has to decide which two should provide the total for their move. This means that skill is involved as the players have to choose the best way trough the numbered stepping stones.

The True Or False activity was updated. The updating process did reveal a couple of interesting thoughts. Would your pupils be able to sketch an irregular hexagon in which all of the external angles were 60 degrees? Also would they think a semicircle has to have a diameter as one of its sides or could a circle be cut into two equal area semicircles using a wavy line?

In addition to many pages on the website being updated, Matchstick Patterns has been added and in the next few days a new series of exercise on algebraic fractions will appear. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for new activities.


Many comments were received this month prompted by the Firewords starter with lots of new words being found.

On the subject of the Ice Cream starter, Dr Duxbury from Edwinstree Middle School says “A rather ambiguous question! Does ‘different’ mean you cannot have the same flavour twice (e.g. two strawberry scoops which I like) or that you count strawberry on the bottom and chocolate on top the same as chocolate on the bottom and strawberry on top (most ice-cream sellers rarely put the ice-cream side by side!). Do you have to have two scoops or can you have just one scoop? Many assumptions made here which makes for a very good discussion with your class where they can find a variety of answers! At the end of the day as long as students can justify and explain their answers, this is all that matters.”

After trying the Five Digits starter Glen from Brentwood says “I would argue that a multiple mode solution, e.g. {2,2,3,3,5}, is a contradiction. I.e. the mode equals the mean, and the mode does not equal the mean. I would also argue for allowing {0,0,0,0,0} as a solution. Our results are: {0,0,0,0,0}, {1,2,2,2,3}, {2,4,4,4,6}, {3,6,6,6,9}, {2,5,5,6,7}, {3,4,5,5,8}. Nice problem, thanks.”

Year 5 from Middlemarch School tried the activity called Satisfaction. The task, as it stands is impossible, but it certainly generates a great deal of mathematical thinking, reasoning and hypothesising. They say “We got 12 numbers on the grid and we are only Year 5! It should be called UNSATISFACTION.”

Finally, on the subject of the Wordles starter, JW from Luton says “Realised I could use this to prompt meaning of unfamiliar words/phrases, and maybe use the same idea to get the students to produce wall displays – to help them in class, and other students too.”

Thanks everyone for their comments, keep them coming!

Puzzle Answer

There were 364 presents delivered in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

That’s all for now.

ps. If it’s cold this Christmas go and stand in the corner, because it is 90 degrees there!

November 2014 News

Another month has flown by and already it’s November. When I was younger, November meant one thing and that was bonfire night. We looked forward so much to the fifth of November and lighting up the sky with the fireworks we had bought from the corner shop. You too can enjoy the November excitement in the classroom by using the Firewords starter, complete with sound effects.

The mathematical puzzle that has captured my interest this month has been a twist on the old classic. You may have heard the one about the explorer who is chased by a bear for one kilometre in a southerly direction, then one kilometre due east then finally one kilometre north. At the end of all this the explorer realises that he is exactly back where he started. What colour was the bear?

The answer to this plus the twist that has captured my interest can be found at the end of this newsletter. I’ll give you a chance to think about it first.

Another thing that I found interesting this past month was the first edition of the BBC’s Newsnight programme with its new presenter Evan Davis. He interviewed British Prime Minister David Cameron and asked him whether we should be teaching metric or imperial units of measure in school. I’ll include his full answer as a sound clip in the November Transum podcast but in a nutshell he opted for imperial units.

Most pupils would learn about many systems of measures in school and as you are probably aware here at Transum we have a topic called Measures containing links to relevant resources.

 Did You Know?

One of the most popular single pages on is the Random Student generator. This web app allows you, in a very visual way, to select a pupil from your class at random. By default you can store all of the names of the pupils in one class using the cookie save button. Transum subscribers have the advantage of being able to store the names of pupils in many classes by using this web app from their Class Admin page.

You may decide to use this selector as a ‘select and replace’ simulation or, by deleting the names from the list on the right side of the page, use it in ‘select without replacement’ mode.

Last Month’s Updates

During October both the Quadratic Equations and Simultaneous Equations online exercise have been updated. The interactive Word Search was given a make over and a brand new activity called Polygon Angles was unveiled. The Trick or Treat true/false activity attracted hundreds of users and I changed the way MSDD (Multiply the sum by the difference then divide by 5) checked the answers typed in.


This month we welcome to new subscribers from the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates. You are all very welcome.


As usual a number of people have sent in comments and observations.

On the subject of the Broken Calculator starter Mr Simon Perry from Orley Farm, Harrow says “My year 4 Maths set managed to work this out in 34 steps – needless to say I was pretty impressed as I gave them the target of 40!”

After doing the Family Buses starter, Bhavin from Southampton says “Excellent starters. Kids have really enjoyed most of the starters. Thank you.”

After persevering with the Four Make 999 starter Primary 7 from Meethill Primary Peterhead says “We managed to get 6 different combinations. Our STAR pupils were Patrick and Jamie. We showed good perseverance throughout this challenge.”

On the subject of the Hot Estimates starter 4W from Havergal College says “Our Grade 4 class came up with multiple strategies, some of which were very similar to the older students! We are super smart awesome!”

Thinking about the Five Digits starter Mr Parsons from Ashcroft High School says “I love these questions. It makes you think. I will use this as a lesson started with my smart year 8 students tomorrow.”

Cooling down the Hot Estimates starter Mr Winter’s Maths Group from Kuala Lumpur says “First we divided the shape up into 64ths.
Then we counted the number of chillis in one of the squares.
After that we used the grid method to work out the answer and we found that there were 768 chillis.
It was great to see that we were only 5 away from the estimate of the school in Surrey.
Thanks for the challenge.”

On the subject of the Mult Sum Diff Div starter Benjamin from Sydney says “Ok, thanks! Anyway, I finished it and the prize was very funny!”

Puzzle Answer

The answer to the classic puzzle is white. The only place the scenario described could have taken place is at the north pole so the bear must have been a polar bear.

The twist is that it could also have taken place near the south pole. It the explorer started off a certain distance away from the pole, let’s say d kilometres where d is a little more than one, and ran towards the pole (south) for one kilometre. He then ran east for one kilometer but because he was so close to the pole his journey was  a circle around the pole with circumference one kilometre. Finally running north for one kilometre would get him back to where he started.

Your pupils may be able to calculate the radius of that circle and hence find d.

But let’s not stop there. What if d was such that after he had run one kilometre due south, the circumference of an easterly circular journey around the pole was half a kilometre so he has to run twice around the circle twice to make up his one kilometre of easterly travel. What would d be then?

This can be extended to running around the circle three times, four times etc to produce a sequence of values of d.

That’s all for now.

ps What did the zero say to the eight?

Nice belt!