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Maths item of the month

Curriculum mapping

A list of Maths Items of the Month categorised by GCSE/A level topics can be seen at: Maths Items of the Month Curriculum mapping.


Recent Maths Items of the Month

May 2020
Walk on by

Two old women started at sunrise and each walked at a constant velocity. One went from A to B and the other from B to A. They met at noon and, continuing with no stop, arrived respectively at B at 4 p.m. and at A at 9 p.m. At what time was the sunrise on that day?


April 2020
9 dots, 10 circles

In the 3×3 square grid of dots shown the dots are spaced one unit apart (vertically and horizontal).

Construct circles with radius √1, √2, √3, √4, √5, √6, √7, √8, √9 and √10 with a pair of compasses using just these points and any intersection points of circles created.

3 by 3 square of dots

You can try an interactive version of this problem at: geogebra.org/m/wfegkq6f

This is adapted from a problem by Ed Southall: twitter.com/edsouthall


March 2020
Nowt taken out

What is the sum of all the three-digit numbers that don't include a zero? For example 242 is included in the sum but 202 and 22 are not.

What is the sum for four-digit numbers? What is the sum for n-digit numbers?


February 2020
Dotty squares

‘Dotty squares’ are squares whose vertices are on the dots of a grid spaced 1 unit apart. The two dotty squares shown have areas 4 and 10.

Squares drawn on dotty paper

Show that it is not possible to draw a dotty square whose area is 3, 7, 11, ... or any number of the form 4n+3 (where n is an integer).


January 2020
Autobiographical numbers

An autobiographical number is a number whose digits describe itself starting with the first digit giving the number of zeros, the next digit giving the number of ones, and so on. 2020 is an autobiographical number as it has 2 zeros, 0 ones, 2 twos and 0 threes.

What other numbers are autobiographical?


December 2019
Santa's lost spreadsheet

Santa is delivering to children on Christmas Eve; if they’ve been nice over the year they will receive presents, if they’ve been naughty they’ll receive a lump of coal. There are 49 children living in Tinsel Town but Santa’s spreadsheet has lost the data for them. Santa decides to toss a fair coin for each child and deliver presents if it lands heads and a piece of coal if it lands tails.

Of the 49 children 25 receive presents and 24 receive a piece of coal. What is the probability that Santa’s last delivery in Tinsel Town is a piece of coal?


November 2019
Maths Week England - MEI Desmos Maths Art Competition

As part of Maths Week England 2019 MEI is running a Desmos Maths Art competition. Students can submit entries of their best Desmos Art by Friday 22nd November and the best two in each of three age categories will win a Desmos T-shirt for themselves and their teacher as well as a pizza party for their classmates.

Desmos Art - Smiley Face

For more details see: mei.org.uk/competitions.

October 2019
Ritangle competition

Ritangle logo

Ritangle is a competition for teams of students of A level Mathematics, the International Baccalaureate and Scottish Highers: integralmaths.org/ritangle. The first five questions will be released on the following Mondays: 7th, 14th, 21st October; 4th and 11th November. The other 20 questions will then be released daily (on weekdays) from Tuesday November 12th, with question 25 released on Monday 9th December. Correct answers to these questions are needed to solve the final question, released on Tuesday 10th December.

Registration opens on Monday 7th October.

Please don’t share answers outside your team, others are having fun finding them!


September 2019
Midpoints of the intersection of a line and a parabola

Intersection of y=x^2 and y=2x+c

M is the midpoint of the points of intersection of y=x2 and y=2x+c (as c varies). Why does M move as it does?


July 2019
Sums of three cubes

Both 11 and 12 can be written as the sum of the cubes of three integers:
11 = 33 + (−2)3 + (−2)3
12 = 73 + 103 + (−11)3

Which of the numbers from 1-100 can be written as the sum of the cubes of three integers?


June 2019
MEI Conference 2019 – A couple of taster problems

The 2019 MEI Conference takes place at the University of Bath on 27-29 June. To see details of the conference and the wide variety of sessions on offer visit the conference website: conference.mei.org.uk

The following problems featured in the 2018 Conference sessions Using graphing technology for teaching calculus and Modelling and hypothesis testing with the Normal Distribution.

Which of the following is true:

  • eπ < πe
  • eπ = πe
  • eπ > πe

Choose either adult men or adult women. How tall are the tallest and shortest that you are likely to meet? Use this to estimate mean and standard deviation.

normal distribution curve