Tag Archives: GCSE(9-1)

10 most popular Maths Lesson Starters

Beginning as usual with a puzzle for the month but this time from Transum Subscriber Nigel Fearn. He contacted me to say how a good puzzle just cropped up the other day and is probable one we are all familiar with in a practical situation. The puzzle comes out of a need to carefully and accurately cut the last piece of a cake into two equal pieces.


Imagine a delicious coffee and walnut cake (my personal favourite) that has almost completely been eaten except for a lonely slice that needs to be cut in two. Rather than cutting the cake in the normal way, from circle centre to the midpoint of the arc (which can be tricky), you decide to cut it in a direction perpendicular to that. So you are not cutting the cake horizontally but vertically so that the centre of the original cake is on one side of your cut and the arc of the remaining slice is on the other.

So the question is where do you make the cut so as two get two equal volumes of mouth-watering cake? The answer can be found at the end of this newsletter.

The most popular lesson Starters (according to the mean of the scores collected on each page) are, in reverse order:

10. Addle (Mental addition)
9. Flabbergasted (Factors and multiples)
8. One Out of Ten (For April Fool’s Day)
7. Ice Cream (Click the buttons on the machine)
6. Mystic Maths (Scroll down the page for the best mind reader)
5. Broken Calculator (A number of versions available)
4. Sum Square (One of many puzzles)
3. 9:50 Puzzle (Just for fun)
2. Maths Crossword (My sense of humour, sorry)
1. How many? [Triangles, Rectangles or Squares)

The most customisable Starter is Refreshing Revision.

March was a busy month with many hours given to updating the website. In addition to the pages that were improved, the following is a description of the new features:

Iteration is an online exercise requiring learners to find approximate solutions to equations numerically using a looping or repeating process. There are a number of levels including one which focusses on the use of a flowchart to show the steps required.

The Brackets online exercise has been around for a long time but now a tenth level has been added for those wanting to practice multiplying three binomials and simplifying the result.

Both Circle Equations and the equations of the tangents are included in this new online exercise.

These aforementioned topics are new for this year’s Higher GCSE(9-1) so are particularly useful for students who have been using past papers to revise as they won’t have seen those topics represented.

Superior and Nevertheless are variations on the ever-popular Great Expectation activity. Guaranteed to create excitement while thinking mathematically. Try one of them during the last ten minutes of your next Maths lesson.

A completely new Cumulative Frequency exercise is now live including grouped data with exam-style questions.

The suite of Pairs programs are always useful for providing variety in the Maths lesson, or, for those individual tutors out there, great for one-to-one tutorials. Three new topics have been added: Units Pairs (both metric and imperial), Fill Graphs Pairs (Great to use after doing the Desmos Waterline simulation) and, inspired by the differences in American and British English, Math vs Maths Pairs.

As April begins it would be remiss not to remind you that there are 20 Weekly Workouts and 20 Practice Papers available on the Transum website for your students taking the GCSE exams soon to use. The Weekly Workouts focus on the higher grades of the Foundation tier while the Practice Papers are strictly for the Higher Tier candidates. As a subscriber you have access to worked solutions for the Higher Tier questions.

For future reference there are two ‘mirror’ sites that contain all the Transum Starters and activities. They are at www.transum.com and www.transum.info The only difference is that they don’t contain the details of your Transum subscription account so you won’t be able to log in there. If it looks like Transum.org will be offline for a long time then I will transfer the database containing your details to Transum.com so you will eventually be able to log in there too.

The answer to the puzzle is that the position of the cut depends on the angle between the straight horizontal edges of the slice of cake. The maximum ratio is:

1 : √2 − 1

You can see the working here.

That’s all for this month,


P.S. If you are asked to subtract five squared from the square root of six hundred and twenty five, say nothing and you’ll be correct!

September 2016 News

If you live in the northern hemisphere you are probably starting a new school year so happy new year to you. Wherever you live you are welcome to the Transum Mathematics newsletter for September 2016. As usual I will begin with the puzzle for this month which is called Separated Twins.

The twins have a safe. The combination of the safe is a six digit number.

Within this six digit number there are two ones separated by one other digit. There are two twos separated by two other digits and there are two threes separated by three other digits.

What is the combination?

As there was no August newsletter there are two months’ worth of new content on the Transum website to tell you about. Let’s begin with the Mathematical Optical Illusions.


This has proved to be a useful visual aid to use while revising some basic geometrical facts with pupils. The illusion bit provides the motivation to study the diagram while you, as the teacher, can sneak in the revision questions such as ‘what is formula for the area of a circle?’, ‘What does arc mean?’ and ‘Name four different types of triangle’. I’m sure you could come up with suitably challenging questions for your pupils as you work your way through the different illusions.

Most Transum subscribers are Secondary/High School teachers but there is a significant proportion of primary teachers too.


This next item is only really relevant to Secondary teachers preparing pupils for GCSE or IGCSE exams. In the UK, next May sees the first of the new style 9 to 1 grade GCSE exams. The Transum think tank has studied the sample assessment materials produced by the exam boards and come up with similar practice questions along with fully worked solutions. These questions have been collected together into 20 practice papers which print nicely onto A4, double sided paper.

One Minute Maths is a hoot! So funny to see good mathematicians making the classic mistake. It’s a bit of fun but highlights a valuable place value, carrying issue. Give it a try (when no one is looking).

Puzzle Cube is a multi-level challenge based on the idea of a Rubik’s-style cube presented as a net. At the time of writing only one person has managed to earn a trophy for the hardest level.

Pupils in general always need more practice with basic mental arithmetic so the more different activities you have to provide that practice the better. Here’s a new two player game for your collection. It’s called Tug of War and has levels for each of the four rules. It can also be played with any of the many Pairs games on the Transum website. Scroll down the Tug of War page to see the links.

You probably already know that there are a range of times tables activities available on the Transum website but Hard Times is new. It is nothing to do with the Charles Dickens novel but is so named as it isolates the hardest times tables facts according the data collected from over ninety thousand trials as can be seen on the Statistics page.

The Calculator Workout page is a visual aid which demonstrates key skills with a common scientific calculator.

The latest pairs game is about Circle Angle Theorems. Not a substitute for practice answering questions and solving problems but a fun support activity.

I hope you enjoy the new activities on Transum.org. Don’t forget that if the website should ever go offline (let’s hope not) you can still get to your favourite activity by using one of the two mirror sites Transum.info and Transum.com. Currently you cannot log in as a subscriber on the mirror sites but if the main site looks as though it will be down for a long time that will change.

The answer to this month’s puzzle is 3 1 2 1 3 2 (or that number with the digits reversed). If you thought it was too easy you can see how this type of puzzle can be extended by looking at the Starter for September 18th.

That’s all for now. Have a worthwhile, satisfying and productive September,


Ps The combination locks on safes should really be called permutation locks because it does matter what order the digits are entered.