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Maths in English – Learning Walk

April 19, 2016

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I did a learning walk into some other faculties to find maths. Here’s my feedback to an English teacher (shared with permission).


Here’s what I noted:

English, year 7
Using the letters in the title of the lesson, how many words can you find? What’s the longest word?
This is a lovely example of permutations and combinations. The title was Reflection Lesson which has 16 letters. If we look for ways of choosing a single letter, there a 16 possible choices R-E-F-L-E-C-T-I-O-N-L-E-S-S-O-N but only one of those is a word (I). If we just look at how many ways there are of choosing two letter words, it’s 16 x 15 = 240 (Sixteen choices for the first letter, then fifteen choices for what comes next.) Of course, some of these are not unique and many of them aren’t actually words but it gives a sense of how many options there are. If you want to look at putting all 16 letters into one word, there are around 20 trillion permutations!
Regarding what maths have I seen, things I thought about include :
  • ·         (Trivially, counting the number of letters is ‘maths’. It’s my opinion that counting doesn’t really count as maths!)
  • ·         Are some titles more fruitful than others? What characteristics would you look for in a ‘good’ title?
  • ·         Does frequency of vowels in the title affect your chances?
  • ·         What is the average length of words that students find? Is this correlated with set?
  • ·         What is the record for longest word?
  • ·         Realistically, what’s the longest we’d ever expect?


The teacher’s response was “I hadn’t thought that there could be so much maths in this game I play all the time at the start of lesson.”

There you go, there’s more maths around in other lessons than you may realise!


From → Maths

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