This article explores ths history of theories about the shape of our planet. It is the first in a series of articles looking at the significance of geometric shapes in the history of astronomy.
The second in a series of articles on visualising and modelling shapes in the history of astronomy.
Problem solving is at the heart of the NRICH site. All the problems
give learners opportunities to learn, develop or use mathematical
concepts and skills. Read here for more information.
A bus route has a total duration of 40 minutes. Every 10 minutes,
two buses set out, one from each end. How many buses will one bus
meet on its way from one end to the other end?
Every day at noon a boat leaves Le Havre for New York while another
boat leaves New York for Le Havre. The ocean crossing takes seven
days. How many boats will each boat cross during their journey?
Bilbo goes on an adventure, before arriving back home. Using the
information given about his journey, can you work out where Bilbo
I found these clocks in the Arts Centre at the University of
Warwick intriguing - do they really need four clocks and what times
would be ambiguous with only two or three of them?
In a three-dimensional version of noughts and crosses, how many winning lines can you make?
Place the numbers 1, 2, 3,..., 9 one on each square of a 3 by 3 grid so that all the rows and columns add up to a prime number. How many different solutions can you find?
On a clock the three hands - the second, minute and hour hands - are on the same axis. How often in a 24 hour day will the second hand be parallel to either of the two other hands?
This article is based on some of the ideas that emerged during the production of a book which takes visualising as its focus. We began to identify problems which helped us to take a structured view. . . .
What can you see? What do you notice? What questions can you ask?
Can you visualise whether these nets fold up into 3D shapes? Watch the videos each time to see if you were correct.
See if you can anticipate successive 'generations' of the two
animals shown here.
A cheap and simple toy with lots of mathematics. Can you interpret
the images that are produced? Can you predict the pattern that will
be produced using different wheels?
Euler discussed whether or not it was possible to stroll around Koenigsberg crossing each of its seven bridges exactly once. Experiment with different numbers of islands and bridges.
Blue Flibbins are so jealous of their red partners that they will
not leave them on their own with any other bue Flibbin. What is the
quickest way of getting the five pairs of Flibbins safely to. . . .
Can you cross each of the seven bridges that join the north and south of the river to the two islands, once and once only, without retracing your steps?
A train leaves on time. After it has gone 8 miles (at 33mph) the driver looks at his watch and sees that the hour hand is exactly over the minute hand. When did the train leave the station?
The reader is invited to investigate changes (or permutations) in the ringing of church bells, illustrated by braid diagrams showing the order in which the bells are rung.
The aim of the game is to slide the green square from the top right
hand corner to the bottom left hand corner in the least number of
A game for 2 people. Take turns joining two dots, until your opponent is unable to move.
At the time of writing the hour and minute hands of my clock are at
right angles. How long will it be before they are at right angles
Players take it in turns to choose a dot on the grid. The winner is the first to have four dots that can be joined to form a square.
Can you recreate these designs? What are the basic units? What
movement is required between each unit? Some elegant use of
procedures will help - variables not essential.
Anne completes a circuit around a circular track in 40 seconds.
Brenda runs in the opposite direction and meets Anne every 15
seconds. How long does it take Brenda to run around the track?
Can you describe this route to infinity? Where will the arrows take you next?
Watch these videos to see how Phoebe, Alice and Luke chose to draw 7 squares. How would they draw 100?
Take a line segment of length 1. Remove the middle third. Remove
the middle thirds of what you have left. Repeat infinitely many
times, and you have the Cantor Set. Can you picture it?
We're excited about this new program for drawing beautiful mathematical designs. Can you work out how we made our first few pictures and, even better, share your most elegant solutions with us?
Square It game for an adult and child. Can you come up with a way of always winning this game?
This task depends on groups working collaboratively, discussing and
reasoning to agree a final product.
Can you make sense of the charts and diagrams that are created and used by sports competitors, trainers and statisticians?
Can you fit the tangram pieces into the outlines of Mai Ling and Chi Wing?
A game for 2 players. Given a board of dots in a grid pattern, players take turns drawing a line by connecting 2 adjacent dots. Your goal is to complete more squares than your opponent.
Here are four tiles. They can be arranged in a 2 by 2 square so that this large square has a green edge. If the tiles are moved around, we can make a 2 by 2 square with a blue edge... Now try to. . . .
Can you fit the tangram pieces into the outlines of the candle and sundial?
Can you fit the tangram pieces into the outlines of the watering can and man in a boat?
An activity centred around observations of dots and how we visualise number arrangement patterns.
What happens when you turn these cogs? Investigate the differences
between turning two cogs of different sizes and two cogs which are
If you can copy a network without lifting your pen off the paper and without drawing any line twice, then it is traversable.
Decide which of these diagrams are traversable.
Which of these dice are right-handed and which are left-handed?
This article for teachers discusses examples of problems in which
there is no obvious method but in which children can be encouraged
to think deeply about the context and extend their ability to. . . .
Can you fit the tangram pieces into the outlines of the workmen?
This article for teachers describes how modelling number properties
involving multiplication using an array of objects not only allows
children to represent their thinking with concrete materials,. . . .
Choose a couple of the sequences. Try to picture how to make the next, and the next, and the next... Can you describe your reasoning?
Charlie and Alison have been drawing patterns on coordinate grids. Can you picture where the patterns lead?
Find a cuboid (with edges of integer values) that has a surface
area of exactly 100 square units. Is there more than one? Can you
find them all?
This article introduces the idea of generic proof for younger children and illustrates how one example can offer a proof of a general result through unpacking its underlying structure.