February 2015 News

This is the February 2015 Transum Newsletter bringing you the latest news from Transum Mathematics.

During this past month I have been to the cinema and seen ‘The Imitation Game’ about the code cracking achievements of Alan Turing. I’m sure you are familiar with the story and a key mathematical feature of it is the design of the computer built to crack the ‘Enigma’.

An Enigma machine was a coding device invented in Germany at the end of world war 1. The total number of possible ways in which an Enigma machine could be set up was 158 million million million. This month’s puzzle takes that idea as its theme.

Consider a small part of the alphabet, just the vowels. How many ways can you create a code for the vowels by assigning to each vowel a different vowel?

The answer is at the end of this newsletter but if the idea of breaking codes interest you don’t miss the online code cracking activities on the Transum website.

As usual a number of people have sent in comments and observations during the last month.

On the subject of the Squared Animals starter Faye Harris from O.L.S.T says “We struggled with this problem until we realized the squares could be at different angles.” And Mr.T from Manchester Health Acadamy says “Please could someone tell me how to he 4×4 with 5 squares, so I can explain to my class. Thank you!”

Regarding the Light Shopping starter Nick G from Ireland says “This is driving me and my class nuts!” and Miss Karen from Hong Kong says “We had one smart student who got it but the class thought it was tricky!”

Finally a comment about the Anagrams starter. A number of mathematical words have had their letters mixed up and one of those words is ‘survey’. Brogan from Paisley Grammar says “To be honest, survey is not maths related.”. Do you agree?

During last month we welcomed new subscribers from the United Kingdom, United States and from one of the International schools in Thailand. You are all very welcome.

January has been a busy month for updating and adding new material to the website. Noteble additions include: Polygon Pieces (the higher levels are surprisingly difficult while Level one would be suitable for young children), Misfits (based on a board game I had as a child), Discombobulated (a basic addition challenge and a race against time) and two more pairs games designed to help pupils recognise the simple area and volume formulae and the names for parts of a circle.

The current times tables news is that after 33,527 timed test results have been collected it is clear that two times eleven takes the least amount of thinking time while nine times twelve takes the most. You can see the statistics here.

Finally the answer to this month’s puzzle is 44. Many people may have got the wrong answer (120) if they missed the stipulation that each vowel has to be coded by a ‘different’ vowel.

Here are all the ways the vowels a, e, i, o and u can be coded:

e, a, o, u, i
e, a, u, i, o
e, i, a, u, o
e, i, o, u, a
e, i, u, a, o
e, o, a, u, i
e, o, u, a, i
e, o, u, i, a
e, u, a, i, o
e, u, o, a, i
e, u, o, i, a
i, a, e, u, o
i, a, o, u, e
i, a, u, e, o
i, o, a, u, e
i, o, e, u, a
i, o, u, a, e
i, o, u, e, a
i, u, a, e, o
i, u, e, a, o
i, u, o, a, e
i, u, o, e, a
o, a, e, u, i
o, a, u, e, i
o, a, u, i, e
o, i, a, u, e
o, i, e, u, a
o, i, u, a, e
o, i, u, e, a
o, u, a, e, i
o, u, a, i, e
o, u, e, a, i
o, u, e, i, a
u, a, e, i, o
u, a, o, e, i
u, a, o, i, e
u, i, a, e, o
u, i, e, a, o
u, i, o, a, e
u, i, o, e, a
u, o, a, e, i
u, o, a, i, e
u, o, e, a, i
u, o, e, i, a

Have a good February.

John

ps Why do you rarely find mathematicians spending time at the beach? The answer is because they have sine and cosine to get a tan and don’t need the sun!