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When 1 becomes 2

This post is going to be related again to mathematics and art and how they are linked. Whilst writing my last post about maths and art in the classroom I realised I was going on and on into a completely different topic – although still to do with maths and art. So this post is going to be about maths and art but a more complex example. The more I am blogging the more I realise I just keep typing and typing and typing until I read it back and nothing really makes sense because I’m writing away at a hundred miles per hour. So here’s to the second post about maths and art… discussing Fibonacci and the Golden Spiral.


The Fibonacci sequence is as follows: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55…

So to get the subsequent number all you do is find the sum of the previous two numbers. This can go on for ever and ever but all we need just now is the first bunch of numbers. The Fibonacci numbers also link in with The Golden Ratio, this is a value of 1.61803399 and is represented by the Greek letter Phi.

The Golden Spiral

The golden spiral is then built from Fibonacci’s sequence numbers, we had our own chance in class to try out the process to come up with our own golden ratios. In order to do this we used the Fibonacci sequence numbers which were then our dimensions to create adjacent squares.


Here is my example, which was ok I must say for my first attempt (using a compass for the first time in a few years was harder than I remembered). Already you can see just how much everything adds up – the Fibonacci sequence numbers give us the widths of our squares, which are then placed perfectly next to each other making rectangles(which widths are also always in the Fibonacci sequence) and then when we use a compass we can create a spiral that passes through the points accurately. Amazing yet confusing!




Here is a better example of how the Fibonacci sequence numbers make up the golden spiral. Because the Fibonacci numbers give you the length of the squares, which are then put next to one another and everything fits and adds up perfectly.


So you may be thinking how is this art? But the golden spiral is in a lot more places than you can imagine – even within nature itself. Here are some examples of the Golden Spiral in both art and nature, it truly does show us again that mathematics is everywhere.

mtm4mdu3ndywndm4mde3otaw  art






galaxy             shell

This highlights to me the link with Ma’s idea of connectedness. Mathematics is not only the one subject but goes way beyond this linking with other curricular areas such as art, but even further than that it is in our everyday life and nature. The galaxy includes the golden spiral, shells contain the golden spiral – mathematics is truly connected to almost everything and we just need to look beyond the basics to realise this.

As a teacher I think this is something I would definitely have a go at teaching because for us at university it was really interesting to learn about however I also think children would be amazed by this idea. Although this could be a maths or art lesson the importance to me would be to highlight to the children how mathematics connects with so many things we may not automatically think about. This will ensure the children are aware of the fact that mathematics is everywhere – and not just a subject they need to do in school.

Our number system

In one of our inputs we had the chance to come up with our own number system, we had the freedom to do whatever we liked – as long as it made sense to us and we could explain our thinking.

Although when you sit down to begin a task like this you try to come up with something totally original that makes sense, the reality is you probably end up creating something that either already exists or is similar to an existing number system. But never the less it was a challenging task and something that we all became engaged in, and many people came up with some really interesting ideas.


This was my partner and I’s number system that we came up with.

Our number system was very much similar to the one in which we all know – apart from the fact it looks completely bizarre. We went along the lines of having a base of 10 number system like ours and had numerals that represented each number. So each number from 0-9 had a numeral which represented it, and then like our own when we get to 11 we just put together the numeral for 1 and put 2 of them. At the time we never quite realised that we had stuck so much to our number system but when we came to discuss it we realised it was very much the same. One thing we didn’t quite get to was coming up with the language to represent our number system, although we had it all planned for how it would be written, we had no idea what our numerals would sound like.

So where did our number system today come from? We use Hindu-Arabic numbers, which were created by Hindu’s in India years and years ago. Before this we used roman numbers which we are all familiar with – I, II, III, IV, V. However when European countries seen the Hindu-Arabic number system they quickly realised it was a much easier and simpler way to work with numbers and perform calculations. Fibonacci supported this (Bellos, 2011, page124) as when he was first exposed to Indian numerals he realised that they were much better than Roman ones, he then went on to write a book about the decimal place – value system which demonstrated how much faster using Indian numerals allowed you to perform calculations. And since then we have stuck to this number system which is engraved in our minds in a way which makes it difficult to forget or think of something new – as proved when I tried to make a ‘new’ number system.

Our number system is crucial in our everyday lives, from using mathematical language to completing equations – it is everywhere. But it isn’t often we really think about our number system in any depth, we just accept the fact that we understand numbers because it is part of our everyday life. Whereas Ma (2010, page 122) highlights that with a profound understanding of fundamental mathematics you should look within mathematical concepts and be able to make connections beyond what you know, and that is what we done in class when we went beyond the existing number system we know and tried to come up with something new – but still be able to find the connections within it. Therefore Ma’s idea of connectedness proves that we as teachers need to not only use the mathematics we know, but go beyond it and discover basic and complex connections within every day mathematics – for example looking at our basic number system and asking questions like where did it come from? who invented it? when did it come around? what did we use before this? And the answers give you connections within mathematics that you didn’t think about before.


Bellos, A. (2011) Alex’s Adventures in numberland. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Ma, L. (2010) Knowing and teaching elementary mathematics: Teachers’ understanding of fundamental mathematics in China and the United States. Anniversary Edition. New York: Routledge.

Mathematics within art

From my experience of placement earlier this year I definitely noticed that the general opinion from my class was that maths was a boring subject and art was a fun subject. I done a few art lessons with my class and they were always fully engaged and were eager to do the work, I think this is because their teacher done a lot of art with them and her love of art passed on to the children. This is an example of how it is crucial for us as teachers to be enthusiastic about every curricular area we teach because it definitely reflects on the child’s opinion of a subject. Anyway, my class loved art and were really enthusiastic about it whereas maths they just got on with but they didn’t look forward to that part of the day. So in my class the children didn’t seem to link the two subjects together as they seemed to have an overall different opinion on them, however they didn’t realise just how much mathematics they were using – and to be honest neither did I.


Every little thing near enough links back to mathematics, this is when you realise just how much maths is literally everywhere. Here are some examples thinking back to my art lessons:

  • Asking the children to collect 2 pieces of paper and 1 paint brush – they need to understand quantity and how to do basic counting.
  • Asking the children to half their piece of paper – they have to understand the mathematical language of ‘half’ and how to do this.
  • Drawing shapes – they need to have an understanding of different shapes and how to draw these.
  • Working with a time limit – basic skills of how to tell the time and also how to manage their time.clock
  • Writing the date on the back of their work.
  • Working in pairs – understanding the language again, automatically knowing what a pair is.

These are just very basic examples of how the children and I used mathematics without even thinking it. These all link very closely with one of Liping Ma’s four properties – basic ideas. All the children in my class could do all of the above and understood what they were doing, but it all started when they were much younger learning the simple but powerful basic concepts and principles of mathematics. (Ma, page 122) When children grasp these basic concepts and principles such as simple equations, it then allows them to build on top of these foundations to then become more confident in mathematics and explore into much more challenging concepts. The fact that any child in my class could half a piece of paper or collect 2 paintbrushes highlights that they already have engraved in them the basic ideas within mathematics.

That is a simple example of how mathematics links with art – and to be honest any other subject area. Because like I said maths really is EVERYWHERE!


Ma, L. (2010) Knowing and teaching elementary mathematics. Teachers understanding of fundamental mathematics in China and the United States. Anniversary Edition. Routledge: New York.

Are animals numerate?

Some people think this question is ridiculous and that of course animals can’t understand numbers in any way, but is that really the case?

After leaving our input discussing this I was left confused to say the least, in this module you are constantly thinking deeper into the mathematics behind things and I often feel that one minute I understand something and then a minute later I am back at square one. So I am going to try come to terms with the question of animals being numerate through the example’s of Clever Hans the horse and Ayumu the chimpanzee.

Clever Hans is an example in the topic of animals being ‘numerate’, Clever Hans was a horse whom became extremely famous for being able to ‘count’. But was that really the case?


When a number was called out Clever Hans would tap his hoof the exact number of times and people were truly amazed – a horse could understand mathematics. For years the horse was taken into crowds and it would get asked questions in which he would respond by tapping his hoof to represent the number he meant. For example if Clever Hans was asked the question “What is 2 + 4?” he would tap his hoof 6 times. People couldn’t believe that this horse could actually understand mathematical questions and could then represent his answer with his hoofs. However it wasn’t long before scientists got involved and began to question what was really going on, they came to the conclusion that the horse couldn’t actually understand the mathematics at all but was being ‘signalled’ in some way by the owner/person asking the questions. So when the horse was put behind a closed door with no one to look at he no longer got the answers correct. Also if the owner/person asking the questions didn’t know the answer then the horse would answer incorrect. To me this proves that the horse was definitely not numerate because he could not understand the meaning of numbers at all, he was purely given visual aids on when to start and stop tapping his hoofs.

However we then looked at Ayumu the chimpanzee, he is very well knows for taking part in memory tasks and getting results which are outstanding – and a lot better than humans. The chimpanzee took part in a short term memory task which requires him to remember the sequential order of numbers, and the results he gets are amazing. Ayumu can do it with no difficulty at all, he gets it correct most of the time and if he makes a mistake he will get it correct the next time. As well as that, the speed he completes the task in is simply mind blowing. When we tried this in our input our results were not quite the same as Ayumu’s, with around 20 of us in class we struggled to remember the order of the numbers past 4 or 5. So what does this mean? Is Ayumu numerate or does he just have a good memory?


Clearly the chimpanzee has amazing memory because he only see’s the numbers for a small amount of time and can then immediately recall them, but to me he must understand numerals to be able to do this task because without this how would he know which number to tap.

Matsuzawa (2010, page 1 ) highlighted that Ayumu had mastered the ability to touch the nine numerals in the correct order as they appeared randomly arranged on the screen. A numeral is a symbol which represents a number so surely the chimpanzee understands this concept? He may not be able to actually apply mathematical skills with the numerals or numbers, such as if there were 2 phones beside each other he wouldn’t associate that with the numeral 2. However , he does understand the concept of numerals as he remembers the symbols which represent the numbers. Ayumu must also grasp the idea of ordinal and cardinal numbers, because although he understands numerals, how does he know which numeral comes after the other? He understands cardinal numbers (or at least the numerals that present these – 1, 2, 3, 4…) but he must also have knowledge of ordinal numbers to understand the idea that 2 comes after 1 and 4 comes after 3 etc. There are many questions and theories about how the chimpanzee really thinks and acts but to me it is very clear that Ayumu is numerate in some way. He understands numerals and the order in which they come (ordinal and cardinal numbers), and also understands what he has to do in order to be correct each time – tap the numbers/numerals in order.

Animals surprise us day by day but is it likely one day we will see them taking part in a maths exam? Who knows.


Matsuzawa, T. (2010) The Mind of the Chimpanzee: Ecological and Experimental Perspectives. United States of America: The University of Chicago.



From loving maths to hating it

After a long 3 and a half months it was finally time to get back to Dundee and start my second year of primary education at university. I think like everyone you feel as if your brain has shut down and you forget how to get back into the swing of doing work, but after a few days back at uni I feel as if I had never been away. Blogging is part of our discovering mathematics module this year which made me feel a bit nervous. Although I was blogging throughout first year I wouldn’t say blogging is something I am confident in doing so hopefully by keeping up to date with it this year I will become more confident within my writing.

Anyway what this blog post is really aimed at is my previous experience of mathematics and why I chose the Discovering Mathematics module.

At primary school I loved maths as a subject, it was definitely my favourite and something I was very confident in. I would always be that annoying child who would ask if we could play the game sparkle when we were allowed a class game (it was based on times tables), as you can imagine most people in the class went in a huff and said it was a stupid idea. After being out on my placement earlier this year I definitely seen the same thing happening, if a child wanted to play a mathematical game the majority of children would be huffing and suggesting other games such as ‘who stole my pencil’ and ‘head down thumbs up’ – games which I didn’t realise would still be so popular now as they were when I was at primary school. Therefore in primary school I definitely had a very positive experience with maths and went onto high school with a positive attitude.

When I got to high school I still really enjoyed maths, up until the end of 4th year when I was sitting my standard grades I loved it. It was a subject that I enjoyed going to class and even when I was revising for my exams I wouldn’t mind sitting doing past papers for maths over and over again, I really did enjoy maths and ended up getting a 1 in my exam. So after so many years of enjoying maths and being really confident in it I didn’t think twice about taking higher maths when I went into 5th year. Maths quickly turned from my favourite subject to my worst subject. A few weeks into higher maths I realised it wasn’t anything like standard grade, it was a huge jump and I quickly fell behind. My best friend and I sat next to each other in class which probably didn’t help things as we chatted thinking we could easily do work at the same time – we were wrong. As the year went on I ended up with a tutor however did terribly in my prelim and my teacher decided it was best if I dropped out and continued it in 6th year. Although I was disappointed in myself I concentrated on my other Highers and forgot about maths for the time being. 6th year came and I started maths again… I HATED IT. I dreaded going to class and wasn’t motivated at all. History repeated itself and I ended up getting to the stage where I knew I needed to drop out, this time was definitely gutting as I knew it was my last chance. I left school with good results and I was proud of myself however I just knew in the back of my mind I should have left with my higher maths. Therefore in high school I went from loving maths in 4th year to leaving school in 6th year absolutely hating it.

When we had the chance of choosing our modules for second year I seen Discovering Mathematics and was on/off about it, but I soon decided that I would go for it. For a long time maths was something I really loved and I was simply put off it because of higher maths, so I thought this will give me the chance to hopefully look at maths in a positive way again because I knew we would not only be looking at sums and equations but going much deeper into what the meaning of mathematics is and where it came from. So here’s hoping to finishing this module and feeling positive about mathematics again.

Simple Science

When I seen we had an experiment to prepare for the first day of semester two I panicked, thinking back to science at school I remember all the experiments taking a lot of planning and time in the lesson to try out. I started googling ‘simple science experiments’ and seen a lot of really good ideas to use in the classroom with children that actually aren’t so complex after all.

During my search to find one that I could easily take into uni and do I came across one which made me think to myself, that surely doesn’t work? So I decided to give this one a bash as it required very little money and time.

A food bag, pencils and water – the only three things I needed for the experiment. The idea of the experiment is that if you fill a food bag with water and seal the top, when you stick a pencil right through the bag that the water will in fact not leak. Having no pencils I decided to try the experiment the night before I planned to get pencils by using a knife instead of a pencil. This was a stupid idea that only resulted in my jumper getting covered in water. As soon as I stuck the knife through water just began to pour out.

I finally had the pencils and was ready to try the experiment, first try and my experiment worked. No water at all leaked out when the pencil was stuck through the bag. The reason being that the food bag is made up of polymers which are long chains of molecules, so when the sharpened pencil is inserted you are separating the polymer chains without breaking then because the long chains of molecules squeeze around the surface of the pencil resulting in no tdt

So this made me think how science doesn’t have to be complicated to a point where we cant understand and that with a simple visual experiment children can grasp an understanding of science. I as a teacher could take in this experiment but before hand get the children to discuss what they think is going to happen when a knife is put through and then if a pencil is put through, this would get the children engaged in a discussion before actually seeing the experiment.

To develop my knowledge of science I need to become more engaged with concepts I will be teaching in the classroom, one thing I plan on doing in watching some documentaries that will build up my knowledge of certain areas I intend to teach in the classroom as there are many great documentaries out there that would benefit my knowledge.



How easy is giving feedback?

The thought of having to read through someone’s work and comment on it critically is something which I found both beneficial and difficult.

I think peer review is definitely a really positive thing however it’s hard to do publically for the first time. I found it hard to word things especially when it came to someone else’s work so I felt myself reading my comments over and over thinking if it sounded ok before I posted it, however being able to read other peoples comments was helpful as it allowed me to see other people’s views and also I was able to see if I agreed/disagreed with what people had said. I think finding the balance in your comments between positive things and things to work on is difficult especially when some people may take something in the wrong way however it is something that will get easier as we continue our eportfolio’s.

Reading comments on my post has been something that has been really helpful because when I was writing my posts I wasn’t sure if I was on track or if I was just rambling on about things completely off topic, so reading positive comments on my post made me feel more confident. Also it is good for people to take a second look at your post and comment on any errors made or things on which to improve because that’s something I find will positively impact learning.

Peer feedback is something I think will benefit me both now as a student teacher and in the future because it’s giving me practice at looking at things with a critical eye and being able to comment things that have been done well and also what could be done to improve it.

Overall peer feedback is a positive process which will help everyone on the course both now and in the future.

What do these terms mean for a teacher?

Patience – Patience is something that is essential in being a teacher, you have to understand that someone may not understand something at all and you need to be able to allow them time to grasp whatever concept it is without getting or showing any kind of frustration no matter how long it takes for them.

Kindness – For me you need to be kind to be a teacher, my memories of amazing primary school teachers are always the ones who were kind and caring towards all their pupils. It makes it so much easier for a child to approach you with any kind of problem they may have if you are a kind person.

Fairness – This is something which you need to be careful with as a teacher, you need to make sure you treat all the children the same no matter what. If a child feels you are treating them unfairly they wont enjoy having you as a teacher and coming into your class.

Empathy – This is something which is crucial in being a teacher, you need to be able to understand the feelings of others. A child may be going through something out of school which could affect their behaviour in school, you need to be able to understand why they may be acting different in the classroom and try help get to the root of the problem.

Self-control – Being able to control your emotions can be something that is hard especially if you are in a difficult situation as a teacher. Also if something is happening in your life outwith your job you have to come in to the classroom and be the same as you always are, this could be difficult but you need to be able to keep your emotions under control until you leave the classroom and not let it affect your teaching.

Gender throughout school

When we were asked to write about how gender affected us throughout school my mind went blank. I couldn’t think straight away of any experience that has stuck in my head, obviously when I thought about it there are hundreds of little things that show the divide in gender at both primary and high school however I think its a good thing that I have no experience of it that has stuck with me in a bad way because generally  at school we were all treated the same apart from small things like boys being asked to move heavy things around class and the girls being asked to take notes to the office (even though these are both things that either gender could easily complete).

One thing I remember thinking about it now is at primary school lunch times the boys would play football and when girls asked to play they would always huff and moan because it wasn’t an all boy team anymore, which is something that wasn’t influenced by the teachers or playground staff at that time but something I believe is already in their heads due to watching football outside of school and seeing all boys teams playing professionally, so they then think that is exactly how it should be.

Overall I wouldn’t say gender affected me personally at primary school but when I look into it there are definitely many cases then and now in both primary and high school where they is gender inequality.

Welcome to your WordPress eportfolio

Welcome to your eportfolio. This is where you will document and share your professional thoughts and experiences over the course of your study at the University of Dundee and beyond that when you begin teaching. You have the control over what you want to make public and what you would rather keep on a password protected page.

The eportfolio in the form of this WordPress blog allows you to pull in material from other digital sources:

You can pull in a YouTube video:

You can pull in a Soundcloud audio track:

You can pull in a Flickr page

Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

You can just about pull in anything that you think will add substance and depth to your writing.