Everyday Maths

A Dicey Survey 16 February 22

MPs were recently given a quiz to test their statistical skills. But the survey was itself flawed.

The Rule of 69...er, I mean...72 26 January 22

If you want to know how long your savings will take to double, the Rule of 72 is a remarkably accurate calculation trick.

Being a Friend of More or Less 23 September 20

More or Less is public service broadcasting at its best, and I feel privileged to have been associated with the programme since its first series in 2001.

The Wastage of Pencil Sharpening 29 May 20

How much of the lead in a pencil do we actually use? The answer is that we waste almost all of it.

False Positives go mainstream 24 April 20

The idea of false positives has always been of peripheral interest to the general public. Covid 19 has changed that.

The Risk of Floods 24 March 20

When reports say 'This is a once in 100 year flood' what does that mean?

Estimating the spread of the Coronavirus 18 January 20

When we hear forecasts in the news, the numbers imply a confidence that is rarely justified.

The Upside Down Swimming Calculation

The Upside Down Swimming Calculation 17 October 19

A dad and his son managed to get the right answer by making two mistakes that cancelled each other out.

Are New Zealanders innately Nice? 15 July 19

When I play the Greed game with teenagers, the selfishness of some of them usually means everyone misses out. But there was one exception.

The Button That Blows Out Candles 17 April 19

Here's the story of the old man who told me about the button that blows out candles.

Inching towards a metric world

Inching towards a metric world 18 September 18

Most of the English-speaking world adopted metric measurements decades ago. Yet imperial language lives on.

The Lazy Student Formula 5 June 18

If you haven't got the time or inclination to revise all the topics on your course.

How To Lie With Statistics 22 January 18

Edexcel recently boasted 99.2% accuracy in their exam grading. Sounds impressive. But it isn't.

From Kilo to Bronto 11 August 17

When I was a child, Big Data was measured in Kilos. Now they're arguing about what to call numbers that are an octillion times bigger.

Taking The Last Chocolate Biscuit

Taking The Last Chocolate Biscuit 3 July 17

There's one chocolate biscuit left on the plate and there are other guests who might want it. How guilty should you feel about taking it?

Two Significant Figures 7 February 17

Most seventeen year olds have very limited mental maths skills. Should we care?

How Fibonacci can help on your holiday to France 1 August 16

To convert miles to kilometres, don't worry about fiddly conversions, just memorise Fibonacci.

The Maths of Red Noses 6 March 15

There are nine noses to collect for the full Comic Relief set. But how many do you have to buy before you've got the lot?

How Donald Duck created an Urban Myth 19 December 14

From architecture to credit cards, myths about the beauty of the golden rectangle are hard to dispel. It's Donald Duck's fault.

Trams, taxes and cliff edges 3 July 14

The new Edinburgh tram has a strange connection to stamp duty

When the Birthday Coincidence Goes Wrong 29 November 13

The birthday coincidence is a lovely way to demonstrate how probability can be surprising. Except when it goes wrong.

The Big Bass Jackpot 1 September 13

An arcade experience that made me realise the appeal of gambling

The Mobius Loop Rollercoaster 3 June 13

Blackpool's Grand National rollercoaster is described as a Mobius Loop, yet you never go upside down. How?

King Richard III 10 May 13

Fifteen 'descendants' of Richard III want a say in where he is buried. What about the rest of us?

How much does it cost to cross the road? 15 March 13

Innocently pressing the button at a pedestrian crossing brings several cars to a halt. What's it cost in wasted petrol?