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Posts from the ‘KS4 (GCSE)’ Category

Circles, Parabolas and Cardiods

October 16th, 2012



June 6th, 2011



Choose any 4 digit number except for 1111, 2222, 3333, 4444. I’ll choose 1502.

Rearrange the digits to give you the biggest and the smallest numbers you can. 5210 and 0125.

Find the difference of these two numbers. 5210 – 0125 = 4995.

Repeat for the new number you get (using zeros to supplement any missing digits if necessary; you must always have 4). 9954 – 4599 = 5335.

Keep repeating until you have a good reason to stop.


5210 – 0125 = 4995
5533 – 3355 = 2178
8712 – 1278 = 7434
7443-3447 = 3996
9963 – 3699 = 6264
6642 – 2466 = 4176
7641 – 1467 = 6174

I’m not going to repeat any more because 6174 => 7641 – 1467 which is the calculation I just did!


  • So every number we’ve tested came to 6174. Do you think all numbers will come to 6174? Why? In maths we can’t say we’re sure about something unless we have a good reason, so unless you want to go through every number and check it, we can’t say that we know that every number sequence we choose will go to 6174! (This is how mathematics differs from science, we don’t just make hypotheses and wait until the next time they break, we find ways to be certain!)
  • Would we have to check every different number to be certain or are there shortcuts we can take? (should we check both 1234 and 1243 separately?)
  • My rules stipulated that you couldn’t choose all the same number: 1111 or 2222. What would happen if you did use those numbers?
  • What about two digit numbers or three digit numbers?
  • Could we frame the problem as (1000a + 100b + 10c + d) – (1000d + 100c + 10b + a)?
  • What about five or six digit numbers (or more…)? You may need a computer to help!


I just came across this interesting bit of mathematics via Twitter: It offers the opportunity for a beautiful open-ended task for secondary maths classes of all abilities. The initial task is easy and produces a startling result that feels like a trick; that hook can lead to discussion and further work about probability, permutations, algebra and programming.

Which chart should you use?

February 22nd, 2011


I just stumbled upon this graphic for choosing which chart you should use to represent different data. It seems well done and is definitely worth a look. Click the image for a closer look on Flickr:

How to Choose Chart Types

Mandelbrot Set

February 12th, 2010


An incredible rendering of the MandelBrot Set, which drives home the notion of infinite complexity!

As the comments underneath the video allude to, there is some utility here to attempt to consider the size of magnification that occurs during a portion of the video, and how to express magnifications of such a magnitude.

Visualising Tiny Things

November 4th, 2009


I stumbled across this lovely page from the University of Utah today, which is extremely simple, but nevertheless well done:

Cell Size And Scale

From a scientific perspective it is interesting to reflect upon the relative sizes of elements, from a Coffee Bean to a Carbon Atom (through various things such as a human Ovum, Sperm, various viruses, compounds and so on).

From a mathematical perspective it is also interesting for the way in which the relative scales are measured in the top-left. Exploring the different notations for small sizes would be a useful exercise in place-value for all levels of Key Stage 3 and 4.

Venn Diagrams (And Mythical Creatures!)

August 27th, 2009


This is a delightful way to revise Venn Diagrams with older students: A Venn Diagram of mythical creatures.


Visit Flickr for the original at a range of sizes.