Category Archives: Book

336. Geometry Snacks

If you are looking for a very last minute gift for that special Mathematician in your life, or you have Christmas money to spend, may I recommend “Geometry Snacks” by Ed Southall (@solvemymaths) and Vincent Pantaloni (@panlepan)?

It is a nearly pocket sized book of geometry puzzles whose construct of simple, elegant problems can decieve the unwary into thinking the solutions are easy. This is a book for those who embrace mathematical rigour, rather than repetitious guesswork.

In fact, forget buying it for someone else – get one just for yourself!

Geometry Snacks is published by Tarquin (ISBN: 9 781911 093701)

310. Menseki Meiro Area Maze

Menseki Meiro puzzle books crossed my Twitter feed a few months ago and I took the plunge.


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The problem is I couldn’t find an English language version. The Japanese originals were expensive so I bought the Spanish version. I don’t speak Spanish so asked my Spanish first language student who said it wasn’t Spanish – she suspected it was in Catalan!

But back to the Menseki puzzles …

They are ingenious puzzles where you simply use your knowledge of the area of a rectangle to solve the problem. Click on the image to see the cover problem. Puzzle 1 was so straightforward a nine year old could do it, puzzle 99 had Y13 Further Mathematicians befuddled. They make perfect starter or plenary activities for any age or ability.

Solutions are provided and if your copy is in a different language, like mine, you might just expand your mathematical vocabulary.

Whilst looking for a suitable image I also came across Alex Bellos discussing them on The Guardian website. Worth a look!

(By the way – the Menseki book also makes a good birthday present for that special geeky someone)


308. Zombie stats

I’ve used word length analysis for years as a source of comparative statistics. The concept is easy – you take a children’s book and a grown up book and compare the word lengths of the first 20, 40, 80 words. After you collect the information in a table, you can use this data to compare averages and the range.

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But what texts to use? Well – you can’t beat a bit of Dr Seuss, but what grown up text could you use. I can highly recommend this extract from ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame Smith

Not only will you be investigating mathematical concepts, but you might just be inspiring a student to pick up a book and read.
Update: If you use the first chapter (say thirty words) of ‘Pride & Prejudice & Zombies’ you get some interesting data. The range is wide, but the highest frequency word length is just two. It’s a great conversation piece – why does this happen? The language is a very precise parody of 19th prose with all the correct connectives and no contractions eg ‘it is’ not ‘it’s’.

307. ‘Why don’t you …?’ Mathsconf8

I finally did it – I ran a session at Mathsconf8, in Kettering! The theme was ‘Why don’t you…?’, inspired by the 1980s UK kids show:

The idea was why don’t you put down the textbook, step away from the worksheet and get your students involved in doing Maths rather than have it done to them. I have to thank the participants for being up for a laugh and getting fully involved. Because it was a hands on session, all the notes needed for the activities are downloadable in a booklet.

‘Why don’t you…?’ booklet (pdf)

Have fun!

Additional link: Crisp people

306. Robson to the Rescue – a classroom essential

Here in the UK there are major curriculum changes going on. There is new content in the curriculum – unless you are a certain age, in which case it’s old stuff coming back. All the current class textbooks will be missing chunks of the syllabi and who can afford to buy class sets of new ones. Canny teachers are filling the gaps with worksheets and booklets. However that in class reference for these topics is an issue.

I thought I’d get a few class maths dictionaries – you know, the little pocket sized ones. Dead-end: no one publishes them anymore. Then I thought ‘Just get standard Maths dictionaries’: no chance, they are over £10 each. I saw a celebrity endorsed child’s Maths support book in my local discount store, bright and colourful, only £5 … except it didn’t have the content for GCSE. I was about to give up when a search of Amazon took me back to 1979…

Peter Robson published his Maths Dictionary through Newby books back in 1979.

It’s got the new curriculum fairly well covered too. The diagrams date it a little, but for roughly £4 it is a little gem.There are not only facts, but examples and diagrams in an unintimidating fashion. It’s also a handy A5 booklet size.

I’ve bought one for each of my group tables. It’s available from lots of online retailers, including a bulk discount for 10 or more on Amazon. I’d suggest getting one for yourself to review and then leave in your desk drawer for general reference.

The ISBN is: 978-1-872686-18-9

Thank you Mr Robson 

265. Book of the term!

We may only be a few weeks into the summer term, but I can safely say this is my book of the term. A gently inspiring, pick up a pencil and relax book.


‘This is not a Maths book’ by Anna Weltman (RRP £9.99) takes all the beautiful ideas we maths teachers wish we could use more often and collects them into a wonderful book.


The pages are full colour and the paper quality is excellent – almost tactile. And the best bit is that no-one can tell you off for doing students’ work or wasting your time making that wall display just right. It’s your book … just for you … you can be as possessive and OCD about the colouring pencils as you want!

It would make a good end of term prize too – a bit different to the usual geometry set or calculator. If you are a forward planner, you could even buy this book for your mathematical someone in a departmental ‘Secret Santa’.

236. An Emerald Adventure

There are assorted holidays coming up and the weather is getting grim. Time to put your feet up and exercise your brain.

Mathematics of Oz

If you like killer Sudokus, logic problems and applied Maths, you’ll love this book. It follows the adventures of Dorothy Gale as she battles her wits against Dr Oz in her journey through the alien world of Oz. The problems are graded so you can work your way up to the harder questions.

You can download a free sample here: Cambridge Press

Buy on Amazon (UK)

I have used problems from this book with all ages of senior school student from able Year 8 to Further Maths A-level students. A word of warning though – check the difficulty level before you let students loose on the problems!