A rhombus, David Attenborough, and the Loch Ness Monster

In 1975, David Attenborough sat down at a table with Sir Peter Scott. Sir Peter was the son of Antarctic explorer Robert F Scott, but he was a remarkable person in his own right. That he won an Olympic medal at the 1936 games in Berlin is often a footnote in his life story; he […]

Q, quarry, squad, cahier, and quarantine

What links Q, squad, cahier, quarry, and quarantine? The answer is that these all have etymological links to words for the number four. The word four itself can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European word kwetwor. This word evolved into the Old English word feower, which eventually became four as we know it today. Kwetwor […]

Nine and new

Have you ever noticed the similarity between the words for nine and new in various other languages? Why are they so similar? A simple answer would be to point out that many of these come novem and novus—Latin for nine and new respectively. From novus, we get English words like innovate and novice. From novem, […]

Which is easier?

Assessing your students’ current knowledge of, and comfort with, a particular topic is important before trying to build on that topic. It is especially important if, like I’ve done on occasion in recent years, you’re supply teaching and find yourself in front of classes that you don’t know well, if at all. Rather than work […]

Planting seeds: trigonometry

At MathsConf 25, I spoke very briefly about trigonometry, amongst other things—such as pantographs, nomograms, and slide rules. Here I’ll share some of my thoughts on teaching trigonometry, which I’d been pondering for a while. What I found unhelpful In the past, I’ve often used applets like this one: A problem is that there’s a […]

Evidence informing action: examples from outside teaching (Part 2)

Debates around evidence-informed teaching and attempts to convince others using evidence have led me to make several observations, four of which I share in this series of posts. In my first post, I suggested that the bit of evidence you find most compelling might not be the bit someone else finds most compelling. This post […]

Evidence informing action: examples from outside teaching (Part 1)

Debates around evidence-informed teaching and attempts to convince others using evidence often remind me of various episodes in my life outside teaching. In this series of posts, rather than focusing on the specifics of evidence-informed teaching, I make four observations about evidence being used to influence actions in non-teaching contexts. I think these observations remain […]