Excited About Maths

“Hey! I’ve found an interesting website,” I said. “Do you girls want to have a look?”

“What’s it about?” asked Gemma-Rose suspiciously, and when I told her it was a maths site she groaned and didn’t look at all interested. Sophie, on the other hand, instantly plonked herself down next to me on the sofa and was very eager to find out more.

Murderous Maths,” I said in a creepy voice. Gemma-Rose decided to come and have a look after all. Soon she was just as absorbed in the site as Sophie and me.

I placed the computer between us and then we hopped all over the site. We ended up on a page about prime numbers. We read about the Sieve of Eratosthenes, and did some prime number tricks with a calculator.

“Prime numbers are the building blocks of numbers, just like atoms are the building blocks of elements.”

I guess I always knew that but I’d never thought about prime numbers in quite that way before.

A few weeks ago I followed a link from Facebook to an article about the discovery of the 48th Mersenne prime number. I have to admit I didn’t really understand much of what I read, and couldn’t see what all the excitement was about. But today, the girls and I worked out Mersenne prime numbers together. 

The 48th Mersenne prime number (which was discovered earler this year) has so many digits that if it was written in a readable font, it would stretch a distance of 50 kilometres. It has billions of digits. We did a great deal of imagining, and we wondered how anyone could write down such a large number. Don’t you love mental images that bring concepts alive? The girls just had to repeat the 50 km image to Andy when he arrived home from work.

Next, I remembered some Numberphile videos about prime numbers and we headed off to watch those:
1 and Prime Numbers (Did you know 1 is no longer considered a prime number?)

The videos were just a little complicated for Sophie (12) and Gemma-Rose (9), but with my help and some rough scribbles on a piece of paper, they understood most of the concepts. The girls certainly enjoyed the enthusiastic presentation.

We learnt that there is a connection between prime numbers and perfect numbers. I’m not exactly sure what a perfect number is, but there’s a Numberphile video on this topic. No doubt we will soon be perfect number experts!

This afternoon, Charlotte (15) came to chat with me. I couldn’t help myself. I just had to share all we’d found out about prime numbers. Fortunately she was happy to listen! So now there are 4 of us who can boast we know what a Mersenne prime number is. By the way, Mersenne was the name of a French monk who was the first person to discover these numbers. He must have had lots of quiet time to do lots of thinking.

This evening I was catching up with my record keeping. I wrote in my book:


Murderous Maths website activities
prime numbers
Mersenne prime numbers
Squaring numbers
Calculator work
Sieve of Eratosthenes
Numberphile videos: 31 and Mersenne Primes, Infinite Primes,
1 and Prime Numbers

Doesn’t that sound like a good day’s maths work? None of it was planned. None of it came out of a textbook or workbook. None of it was imposed. All of it was enjoyed immensely.

“Sophie, I’ve ordered 10 of those Murderous Maths books, in a boxed set.”

“Wow! I can’t wait for them to arrive,” Sophie said, her eyes alight with delight. “I love maths!”

I love maths too. I always have. But this time round I’m learning maths in a different way to when I studied it at school. This time, I am really excited by it. (Can you tell?) The girls are excited too… even Gemma-Rose.

Our new books should arrive before the end of the week. Murdering Maths? No, our interest in maths is very much alive.

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  1. Reply

    Only last night I cam across these books for the first time. I got onto the Book Depository but found they were around $10 each so thought I'd watchlist them til they came on special and then today you not only do a blog on them (I hadn't realised there was a site) but provide a link to them way where they are way cheaper … I am just dumbstruck … but YEAH, YEAH, YEAH! Thanks so much … and again with the YEAH!

    1. Reply


      I can feel your excitement from here! Like you, I started at the Book Depository, and then later discovered the ABC shop sale, with 10 books for $29.95. I jumped up and down a bit before placing an order. This morning about 8.15 am the books arrived!! They came overnight so that was excellent service. Now we are about to dive into them. I'm sure we'll have lots of fun with them.

      Another book arrived this morning: Fiona Goble's Fleecie Dolls. It is full of GORGEOUS doll patterns. We're going to have to make them all. I'm sure your girls would love the book. I'm going to post some links on FB this afternoon if you want to take a look.

  2. Reply

    If only you could have taught me Math. If I were in your general area (or even hemisphere), you might find me standing on your doorstep holding a bookbag and a lunch box, with a note that says "please Mrs. Elvis, may I come to your school?" (I promise I'd bring a nice shiny apple)

    1. Reply


      I love apples! I also love friends who leave encouraging comments. You could share my maths adventures if you let me share your craft ones. I can just imagine all the fun we'd have together with your tin of emergency googly eyes!!

  3. Thank you so much for this post, Sue. I've seen the Murderous Maths books at the library before but put them aside until the children were older. Now I too have ordered the bargain set, hurray! I've had a quick flick through and there are so many ideas for interesting conversations and puzzles to play with.

    The website looks great, too.

    I'm loving our new living maths approach – thanks for being an inspiration, as ever!


    1. Reply


      I hope you enjoy the books when they arrive! Yes, they seem to be full of interesting ideas and information. I like the visual images too. Prime numbers are the strong beefy in charge guys who can take apart the weedy composite numbers!

      I love the living maths approach too. I'll watch out for your own maths posts. I did like that book about angles and Sir Cumference!

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