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Maths for All Newsletter

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Maths for All Newsletter



Welcome to the February Newsletter
We appreciate how hard it is for teachers on the frontline over the past 2 years, and we are hoping that we have seen the very worst of the pandemic pass. Given the loosening of restrictions across the island this month, we hope that this will bring the opportunity for more in-person events throughout this year.
Today is St Brigid's day, traditionally the first day of spring, and while there may still be cold weather ahead, it is a time of hope. St Brigid is an enigma and the day can belong to all as Brigid was also the name of the Celtic goddess and the ancient pre-Christian festival on Imbolc took place at this time to celebrate the end of Winter and beginning of Spring.
So, as we emerge from Winter  and Covid (hopefully) we have a lot of news, resources and coming events to share with you.


In this issue:

Best wishes,
The Maths Week Team

Maths Week 2022 Annoucement

The dates for Maths Week 2022 have been announced! It will take place from the 15th to the 23rd of October 2022. The Maths Week team are already planning the programme, as a hybrid of online and face-to-face activity. If you have any ideas please get in touch. 

Keep an eye on our website and social media for all the latest updates.

Northern Ireland Science Festival will take place this month with over 180 events across more than 50 venues. One event of interest to the mathematically minded will take place at QUB where  Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter and RSS Statistical Ambassador Dr Anthony Masters will make sense of the pandemic through the numbers.

A Puzzle for St Brigid’s Day
St Brigid approached a local chieftain looking for land for a once-off rural dwelling. The chieftain had heard of St Brigid’s powers and was anxious not to cross her.
“This is my best field – the fence that bounds it is a perfect square and it has an area of 1 hectare, and it has road frontage! But, I am not a rich man and I can’t spare much”.
St Brigid reassured him suggesting that she would just cast her cloak on this particular field and would only take as much land as it would cover. The hard-pressed chieftain had heard of the magic cloak and offered the venerable developer an alternative. He gave her a rope.
“This rope is 99m long – you can have as much land as you can separate from the rest of the field with this rope. And by the way, when you divide the field into two portions you can only take the smaller portion.”
What is the maximum amount of land that the wily saint can separate from the rest of the field?
Solution below.

Ulysses 100th Birthday tomorrow
Tomorrow 2 February is the 100th birthday of James Joyce's little book, Ulysses. A famously difficult read, it is nevertheless regarded as one of the greatest and most influential novels of the last 100 years. The book covers just one day -June 16 1904- in Dublin following a range of characters that are both local and parochial and at the same time universal. It can be a difficult journey without a guide but there are several accessible resources on the internet.  Mathematics and science (especially astronomy) feature in several places and this is celebrated every June at the Bloomsday festival at Dunsink Observatory in "The Heaventree of Stars" organised by DIAS, The James Joyce Centre, Joyceboro and Maths Week Ireland. If you are curious, have a look at the recordings featuring music, song and story: 

2020 Heaventree    Maths of Ulysess, with Maths Week Ireland founder, Eoin Gill from 32 - 42 mins 
2021 Heaventree    Here Eoin relates the true story of Joyce's ghost 47 - 1.01mins
(btw If you happen to have a first edition, it is probably worth over 50k !)

The Atlas of Irish Mathematics: Belfast 1900-1939.

The latest installment of the bi-monthly blogs exploring mathematical heritage of the island is available on the mathsireland website here. This valuable online resource is curated by Prof Colm Mulcahy with the support of teachers and academics North and South. The latest blog lists 132 (including 33 women) mathematicians from Belfast, educated in Belfast or working in Belfast in the early half of the 20th Century. There are many unknowns and Colm would be very grateful for any additional information.
This blog is the second visit to Belfast:  seventy two mathematicians connected to Belfast before 1900 were previously listed
Colm Mulcahy has recently been appointed adjunct professor with Calmast at Waterford IT to work on maths engagement.

Maths News

Students take top prize at BT Young Scientist for devising way to solve an ancient geometry problem

  • Two third-year students from Synge Street CBS, Dublin have been announced as the winners of the 58th BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.
  • Aditya Joshi and Aditya Kumar, both aged 15, took home the top prize for their project entitled "A New Method of Solving the Bernoulli Quadrisection Problem." 
  • The quadrisection triangle problem concerns finding two perpendicular lines which divide a given triangle into four equal areas. In 1687, Jacob Bernoulli published his solution to the problem with a general algebraic solution.

To read the full article, please visit

Target Boards for February
Target Boards will make their return for the Spring term.
These are available now and can be accessed through Games and Competitions.

Maths at Work


Do you have a story to tell?
If so, get in touch with us about how you use maths at work.
Contact us at [email protected] or fill in our form at

Gathering 4 Gardner
Gathering 4 Gardner hosts monthly Zoom sessions which often feature approachable maths topics of interest to students. In October NUIG's Rachel Quinlan, gave a talk on the use of origami to make wallpaper patterns. To view the talk in full click here.

IMTA CPD Sessions: Teaching Probability with Casino Games

Check out the Irish Maths Teachers Association next CPD session on February 2nd at 7:30pm. WIT's, Dr. Padraig Kirwan will be giving a talk on casino games and how they can be used in the teaching of probability.
If you are interested in attending register here.

Dates for your diary in 2022:

Peter's Problem

Register by emailing your name and school to [email protected].

February 9th
Maths is More: So what is mathematics? with White Rose Maths, Online

February 27th
Covid by Numbers - Making Sense of the Pandemic with Data, Belfast

March 4th
John Hooper Statistical Poster Competition - closing date for posters to be submitted. 

March 5-11th
Engineers Week & SE EngFest

March 14th
International Day of Mathematics

March 30th
Women in STEM Summit 2022, Dublin

April 12-14th
Mathematical Association Conference ‘Mathematical Visions’, online

April 20-21st
European Science Engagement Association
 22 Conference, Cork

June 20-24th
24th Conference of the International Linear Algebra Society, Galway

July 6-14th
International Congress of Mathematicians 

October 15-23rd 
Maths Week Ireland

This meeting attracts maths education specialists and teachers from around the world.
More info here 

Follow us on social media to join in our
Puzzle of the Week every Saturday!
Follow us on social media for updates:
Facebook: @MathsWeek
Twitter: @mathsweek
Instagram: MathsIreland
LinkedIn: Maths Week Ireland
Tiktok: @MathsWeek
Get in touch, give feedback and feel free to share your ideas and resources.

The Maths Map of Ireland

The Maths Map of Ireland is an exciting new project from Maths Week Ireland and the ESB. The project will see the creation of a Maths Map; to include historical places and people relevant to maths; maths trails and contemporary maths figures and places of interest.

If you would like to add to the Maths Map of Ireland, please email [email protected] with the subject MATHS MAP.

DCBEAGLE Challenges

BEYOND THE TEXTBOOK – Maths Week IrelandDouglas Buchanan ~ [email protected] ~ ~ @dcbeagle1

Here's How To Get Kids Excited About Math (Yes, It's Possible!)
Nigel Nisbet obtained a maths degree in London and is now teaching in the United States:
“I'll never forget my first day as a high school teacher in America. My dream was pretty simple: Mold eager minds into future science, technology, engineering and math leaders who will help define the 21st century.
My reality was a little different.
….. I discovered that most of my students were repeating basic algebra—some for the third time—and many struggled with even routine elementary math problems. They'd switched off to math long before I met them”
Do read his inspirational blog and also watch his TEX presentation to see how he changed his ways in approaching maths teaching.

Puzzle of the week (another H E Dudeney infamous conundrum)
Moo! Moo!

"Supposing," said my friend Farmer Hodge, "that cow of mine to have a she calf at the age of two years, and supposing she goes on having the like every year, and supposing everyone of her young to have a she calf at the age of two years, and afterwards every year likewise, and so on. Now, how many do you suppose would spring from that cow and all her descendants in the space of twenty-five years?" I understood from Hodge that we are to count from the birth of the original cow, and it is obvious that the family can produce no feminine beef or veal during the period stated.

Spatial Awareness
Tantrix – a great game involving hexagons with lines running through them. Many activities and at the bottom are puzzles using the Shockwave app.

Tangrams online – covering all age groups.

Paper and Pencil games and puzzles
With the simplicity of using just a sheet of paper and a pencil there is an unlimited number of games and activities (for all ages). An ideal approach for “wet breaks”, isolation at home, involving the family.

Six Strategic Pen-and-Paper Games (from a Strange and Bottomless Mind) – six activities for all ages

Math Pickle – several activities all accompanied by a presentation and printable material.

Puzzle of the month solution
A question of transport

Note the following series of numbers, first considered by Leonardo Fibonacci (born at Pisa in 1175), who practically introduced into Christian Europe our Arabic numerals: 0, 1, 1,2,3,5, 8, 13,21,34, ... , 46,368. The twenty-fifth term is 46,368, and if we add all the twenty-five terms or years together we get the result, 121,392, as the correct answer. But we need not do that addition. When we have the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth terms we simply say (46,368 multiplied by 2) plus 28,657 equals 121,393, from which we deduct 1.

Maths books in the library

When I did some school inspecting the disappointment was in the library with the lack of books related to maths. In this site Intention Family Life, the author lists some books for you to discover. They are suitable for 8 – 12 year olds.

The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett
What’s the Angle, Pythagoras? by Julie Ellis
The Librarian who measured the Earth by Kevin Hawks
Sir Cumference and the Fraction Faire by Cindy Neuschwander
The Multiplying Menace Divides by Pam Calvert
….. and several more

Final Words
Do remember the date 22/2/22 is looming!

A Puzzle for St Brigid’s Day

There are many ways of looking at this puzzle, which makes it useful as a class exercise. Different pupils may take different approaches and this can lead to fruitful discussion.
Here are three such approaches Circle, Triangle and Quadrant.
A square field of 1 hectare as sides 100m long. The rope is 99 m long and the biggest area marked out by the rope alone would be a circle. The perimeter is 99m which equals 2

We can do better than this. Using two sides of the fence we can use the rope to make the hypotenuse of a triangle. You could experiment with different length sides, but an isosceles triangle would be a good bet. So we need to calculate the length of the sides of an isosceles triangle with hypotenuse of 99m.  If we call the length of a side, L, then Pythagoras tells us that the

Can we go one better? The circle is nature's efficient way of fitting the maximum area into a given perimeter. The free standing circle wasn't as good as the triangle formed using the sides of the field. Let's try to combine the two approaches - and mark out a quadrant. 
This quarter of a circle will have a perimeter of 99m. The whole circle would have a perimeter of 4x99m.
So, the area of quadrant computes as 3119.75 m2 . This is the maximum area that Brigid could enclose. This would leave Of course, she (and your pupils) might argue that

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