7 June 2014


Maths teaching is often rushed. We cover topics too quickly, we test regularly, we repeat the same thing every year. By Year 10 our pupils are bored. It's so unnecessary and frustrating. If only we spent more time on rich Mathematics. I'd love to slow down, go off on tangents, let my pupils investigate and discover... The only time I get the chance to digress from the Scheme of Work is at the end of the summer term.  So I seize the opportunity to engage my pupils in interesting concepts and ideas - like the binary system.

It's easy to get pupils interested in this topic. Here's some suggestions:
  • Show them a picture of a binary watch. I once knew a Year 13 who actually wore one of these to school every day! My pupils were intrigued by this and wanted to know how to read it.
  • You could lead into this topic through other number systems (Roman Numerals etc).
  • Perform this fantastic binary magic trick.  My pupils loved it! They were desperate to know how it worked.
  • Tell them the joke "There are only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't". 
Here's a few examples of resources you could use in a binary lesson:
    Last year I went to a fantastic lecture by Simon Singh (@SLSingh) about Maths in the Simpsons.  His book 'The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets' is absolutely brilliant, a must-read for all Maths teachers.  Singh writes about a scene in the Futurama episode 'The Honking' in which Bender is alarmed when he reads the binary code 0101100101. When read in a mirror, the code reads '666'.  I told my Year 13s about this - they loved it. I wanted to show them the clip from Futurama but all I found was this YouTube video in Spanish (?) which they thought was hilarious. I also explained the reference to the 'Redrum' scene in The Shining - most of them had never seen the film so I showed them this clip and managed to terrify half the class! Myself included. :)

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