Archives for July 2015

Find the picture mathematics exercise

Okay, this is another type of math exercise I can tailor to the needs of a particular student. The idea being they figure out all the math problems and shade the squares in the grid that correspond to the answers. I leave it to you to figure out what the picture is in this case.


My students do like these BUT I found it harder and harder to come up with pictures on a 10 x 10 grid!! A bigger grid would be easier but printing it would be difficult.

Anyway, give it a try if you’d like and let me know what you think!

Why we’ll probably never meet aliens

Space is big, really big. Most of us grew up with programmes like Star Trek or movies like Star Wars and Dune. In such shows there is some mysterious, unexplained warp drive (or some such) which enables travel over vast distances of space in short periods of time. In other words, in the future a way to travel faster than the speed of light is discovered. Sort of.

But what if that’s no possible? What if the speed of light is a hard upper bound that we’ll never be able to get past?

This video (which was originally posted on Vimeo: shows what it would look like travelling from the Sun to Jupiter at the speed of light. It’s pretty boring.

First of all, it takes about eight minutes just to get to the earth and about an hour to get to Jupiter. Secondly, there’s not a lot to look at along the way.

But the video very strongly makes the point that the universe is HUGE.

I think it’s very likely that life has developed elsewhere in the universe, even in our galaxy. I hope that, in my lifetime, we detect signals from an alien civilisation. But I doubt we’ll ever meet them or even be able to have a conversation. The distances are vast, even a radio signal takes over four years to get to the next closest solar system. We may not be alone but we might as well be.

An idea for a mathematics exercise . . .

A good friend of mine posted this picture on facebook.


I think it’s very clever, especially since it’s done completely with ‘9’s. And it got me thinking . . .

I could ask students to make up problems with a given answer. For very young children that would just be ‘adds’ and ‘take aways’. So . . . give me an add that comes out to be 9. For older kids it could involve ‘multiply’s or ‘divide’s or square roots or exponents.

Hmmm . . . I’m liking this!!

I find that it can help students understand mathematical structures and procedures when then are asked to work the process backwards and forwards.

Another math exercise

I stole this idea from the puzzle section of one of the UK’s national newspapers. The idea here is to fill in all the spaces in the centre block with the digits 1 through 9, some have already been done. It teaches kids how to think about what kind and size of answers certain combinations give. AND it’s good basic ‘order of operations’ practice.


I really enjoy doing these myself and so figured out a way to create my own using Excel. It’s much easier than it looks, although you have to be careful that you give enough ‘clues’. Filling in too many spaces ahead of time is not so much of a problem especially if the student is having trouble grasping the exercise.

Sadly, my students don’t enjoy doing them as much as I do but I thought I’d share this anyway.

Some fun math!

As a private math tutor I frequently try to find some activity that I can give to students who don’t want to practice some of the basic, necessary skills. Like all other instructors I frequently look for things on the internet. One time I found a kind of coded message activity: the student has to figure out some basic math problems and the answers are matched with letters and that leads to converting a string of numbers into a sentence in English. Most of my tutorees just love doing that kind of thing. So I thought . . . why not create some tailored for them.

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