Tim Bullas talks about Maths at Aysgarth

What strategies or resources do you use to support struggling math students and help them improve their understanding?

I am proud to be old school. You cannot beat playing cards, dominoes and of course darts. Some boys struggle with maths but this does not mean they have to struggle with numeracy.

How do you encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills in your math classes?

It has to be the Winston Churchill approach – never give up. There is a tendency these days to throw the towel in too quickly. I am sure if you offer the correct reward you can get the desired outcome. Even giving the children the chance to work out the code of a combination padlock throws up a plethora of different approaches.

How do you incorporate technology into math lessons to enhance learning?

Technology has come a long way since I was at school. There are some very good websites out there but there are also many websites which are gaming sites with very little maths content, so you need to be careful. For me, the most helpful sites are the geometry ones. Having the ability to instantly bring up a 3D shape and be able to rotate it on screen is amazing.

If you could have any superpower related to math, what would it be and why?

It would definitely be some form of hypnosis or subliminal learning power – just so the pupils can remember the basics!

How do you ensure that the math curriculum is engaging and relevant to students' lives?

For me, covid 19 was an absolute maths blessing. For many pupils seeing graphs/pie charts being used for showing mortality rates etc made maths interesting. More recently we have had a surge in inflation rates and interest rates. Making sure boys understand the concept of borrowing and the cost of living is imperative and very relevant to their lives.

What is the most interesting math puzzle or riddle you've come across, and can you share it with us?

My favourite puzzle is the ‘Tower of Hanoi’. It looks really easy but takes some working out. Also, you can develop the puzzle further and work out the minimum number of moves.

What is your favourite math joke or pun that never fails to make you laugh?

What do you call a number that can’t just stay still? A roamin’ numeral!

Can you share a fun and creative math activity or project that you've implemented in the past that students really enjoyed?

The senior boys in the school love the share trading game Marketwatch. You are able to buy, sell, short and cover trades in real-time. It gives them a real insight into the financial world of share trading and whilst also being fun it is exposing them to career options.

What is the most surprising or unexpected application of math that you've come across in everyday life?

I love the telly adverts which give you 50% off your fitted carpets and THEN just for this day only you get a further 40% off the sale price. I just wonder how many people are at home watching the advert thinking ‘90% off is a good deal’. (real answer is 70%).

What is the most memorable or unusual math-related question or problem a student has asked you, and how did you respond?

I often get asked how many ‘Cockburn’s’ pies I have eaten in my lifetime. I always respond (holding my tummy in) – far too many but not enough!