Tag Archives: mathematics

Board Games- Mathematical? No way!?

I’m going to start off this post with a little bit of honesty… During our recent input about the maths within board games I was kind of (very) distracted by a ‘Where’s Wally?’ jigsaw puzzle so I didn’t quite manage to make a lot of notes on the subject… But never mind! it’s time to explore the mathematics within some of the nations favourite board games!

Throughout my childhood I would always get a new board game for Christmas- without fail. The whole family would sit and play the newest edition of ‘Monopoly’ or ‘Guess Who’ instead of watching the Queen’s speech. But little did I know that these board games weren’t just a way to escape the Christmas TV but were actually forcing me to use mathematics even during the holidays (sneaky…)

I feel like the best place to start when talking about board games is obviously with Monopoly. Although it may seem like a game you can win using luck, it’s actually a lot more complicated! Monopoly uses chance, probability, percentages and much more. There is actually a science behind winning the game so, if you want to impress (and probably annoy) your friends and family this Christmas just watch this short video, follow the rules and you’ll be sure to win every time!

However, monopoly is not the only game which uses maths. Jigsaw puzzles (just like the Where’s Wally one I was so easily distracted by) also use maths. Jigsaws use tessellation to ensure all the pieces will fit together, they use distribution and fractions.

So, if you, your son, daughter, sibling, etc is ever asked to take a board game into class on the last day of school, it’s only because they’re mathematical!

Spend Money to Earn Money

Money. it sometimes seems as though our world revolves around it, the human race probably does revolve around it but how can someone make it?

Many people have their rags to riches stories; Lord Alan Sugar, Duncan Bannatyne, and Sir Richard Branson. But how did they do it? What is the secret to money success. Spending it.

Yes, you have to spend your hard earned cash before you can make more, seems crazy but it works.

In a recent Discovering Mathematics workshop, the MA2 student teachers were given an Apprentice-style task- demand planning. We split into pairs and were (theoretically) given £5000. We had to use this money to plan what we thought would sell in a shop at different times of the year and buy it accordingly in order to make the biggest profit.

Katy and I decided to work strategically, we thought we would only spend a couple of hundred pounds and save the rest ‘just in case’. We spent roughly £300 on stock for the first three months and made a profit of £900- great! We decided to stick with this tactic of spending a little and making, what we thought, was a great a profit.

At the end of the task we had £10,000 meaning we had made a profit of £5000 over the year, doubling our original sum of money!

We thought we had done brilliantly until other people started reading out their profits. Other pairs had made hundreds of thousands of pounds and how had they done it? They spent thousands of pounds on items such as tins of beans in the first three months of the task. They had managed to make more money because they were spending more money and therefore had more stock for people to buy.

So. if you’re thinking of quitting the day job to start a business, maybe start saving so that when you’re ready, you can start spending!

The power of 0

It is greater than God, it is more evil than the devil, the poor have it, the rich need it and if you eat it you’ll die. What is it?


Zero- arguably, the most important number in mathematics. Think of the number seven hundred, seven thousand or seven million, what you’re thinking of is the digit 7 followed by a number of zeros- right? Zero is a place holder, without it numbers would lose great value, imagine having a zero taken off (or added on!) to your salary! But what is it’s history? Where does the number zero come from and has it always been important?

The Ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilisations to practice mathematics and used symbols similar to their well known hieroglyphics to symbolise numbers (as shown below). However, the Ancient Egyptians did not have a symbol for 0 and even without this, they became very well respected mathematicians.





Some, maybe less well known, mathematicians are the Babylonians. They made a huge first step in coming up with a place holder or a number 0. They’re number system was a base 60 system with one symbol for units and one for tens (as shown below) but still there was no symbol for 0. The Babylonians continued without a ‘zero’ for many years using just a blank space as a place holder. However this could get confusing and mathematicians could easily forget to leave the space. So, during the fourth to first centuries B.C Babylonian mathematicians and astronomers developed two signs to represent a ‘space’.



Babylonian Zeros (above)



Despite the Babylonian’s great step towards finding a place holder within mathematics, many sources credit the Indians for first imagining the idea of a ‘zero’. In the 7th Century, Indian mathematician, Brahmagupta wrote some very important works on both mathematics and astronomy. A text called ‘Brahmasphutasiddhanta’ which contains many different mathematical ‘rules’ was written by Brahmagupta. This is the earliest known text which attempts to define zero as a number in its own right and not just as a place holder as the Babylonians used it. Brahmagupta established, what are now considered as basic rules for dealing with the number zero (i.e 1+0=1, 1-0=1, 1×0=0).

Throughout my time researching for this blog post I have found that the origin of the number zero is a lot more complex than I had first thought it would be. Many of the sources I found contradicted each other and it is clear to me that nobody is 100% sure where the number zero originated or who invented it. What has been made clear to me through this blog is that numbers are very complex and many people have been developing them over many years.