“Cake delivery service! Check outside your door,” said a message that popped up on my phone. Sure enough, courtesy of my lovely neighbour Lucy, two tall red velvet slices lay nestled cozily beside each other in a clear plastic box on the mat.
It was one of the better things to happen at 22:01 on an otherwise ordinary Wednesday night.
It also pointed to something much more significant: a remedy for most of our everyday ills. I should point out here that I don’t mean the cake itself (though that certainly helps) but the act of giving it.
In maths, ‘small is powerful’ isn’t just a cliche, it’s a fact.
Take the number 10 and place a small number two next to it. Raising it to this power immediately brings its value up to 100.
This isn’t just true in the world of numbers. History has been shaped by seemingly trivial occurrences more often than you might expect.
Tiny Histories by Dixe Wills is a thought-provoking read that details how simple events unexpectedly shaped the course of British history. Take the invention of butter chicken (there, now I have your attention!). Wills recounts the incident in Tiny Histories…
In the final chapter of his book, ‘Wait What?: And Life’s Other Essential Questions’ author James E. Ryan reflects on an important question:
“And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?
The “even so” at the end of the question, to me, perfectly captures the reality that pain and disappointment are inevitably a part of a full life, but also the hope that life, even so, offers the possibility of joy and contentment.”
As a maths tutor, I was recently working on a maths question about scaling up a pancake recipe with a Year 5 student…
In a home video that will remain forever etched in our family history, my younger sister KD (aged two at the time) recounts a bedtime story. It involves a girl (we’ll call her Mia) who makes friends with several animals in a forest.
At one point in her animated retelling of the tale, KD happily states that Mia is surrounded by a number of ‘birdies’. At this point my father asks her: “The birdies, were they small or big?”
KD, with the life-affirming eagerness of a young child who wants it all, asserts, “No! Small AND Big.”
It was an…
Ira Glass, the American radio host, famously described what he called the taste gap, experienced by anyone who begins to do creative work. When you begin a creative endeavour, the contrast between the level of work you are producing at and the level you’d like to be at can be greatly discouraging.
The gap doesn’t just apply to creative endeavours.
Whether you’re trying to improve your diet, your job performance or your relationship with someone you find difficult, there is almost always a disparity between how you’re behaving and how you’d ideally like to act. …
Every number has a kind of opposite called a reciprocal.
The reciprocal of 2 is 1/2, because dividing by 2 has the same effect as multiplying by 1/2:
10 ÷ 2 = 5
10 x 1/2 = 5
Reciprocals also teach us that everything (including a number!) can be turned on its head, and that there is value in doing this (reciprocals make it easier to divide fractions by each other).
In her TED talk, Kelly McGonigal explains that research shows stress is only harmful if you believe that to be true. In a study, when people chose to see…
When I was ten, my parents bought me a magic set from Hamley’s toy store in London. I couldn’t wait to start using it — I spent the entire 8–hour flight to India we took the next day relishing the thought of this impressive new skill.
Over the next few years, I was a frequent performer at family gatherings and even managed to find an enthusiastic assistant in my younger sister. The enormous red box remained a source of entertainment (admittedly more for me than for my audience) until I was ready to give it away.
What would happen if…
You may or may not remember how to find the Highest Common Factor of say, 54 and 30. It’s simply a special value that connects the numbers. It shows that even though two numbers may seem different, when you break them down properly, they’re made of the same building blocks.
Finding the Highest Common Factor you share with another human being is a much better use of your time.
If you have a sibling, chances are there are stark differences between you. Perhaps you have a steady job while they’ve chosen a more unusual path. …
My sister has a wonderfully simple recipe for pizza sauce. Tomatoes, some chopped onion, a large dollop of butter and whatever herbs you have on hand.
The magic lies in slow-cooking the ingredients.
This may be as true in life as it is in pizza-making.
In maths, a function relates inputs to outputs.
Insert the number 3 into the function 2x + 4 and you get an output of 10.
Put flour, chocolate chips and some other good stuff into an oven and you get lots of people ‘just dropping by’ your home (who can resist the fragrance of freshly…