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The Gorilla in the Room and Other Great Maths Investigations

These topics are a great way to add interest to statistics and probability lessons at KS3 and KS4 level, and also a good example of investigations that IB students can conduct. They also have a nice link to ToK – how can we believe what we see or what we hear?  To what extent should we trust our senses?  And it shows the power of statistics and empirical testing in trying to understand what is externally real and what is our own version of reality.

For each one, have the students make a hypothesis (if possible without giving the endings away!), then collect some data as to how the students react.  Then look at how the data could be collected in a larger scale experiment (or how the experiment could be modified).

The first one at the top of the page is the “Fa, Ba” test.  This is a really curious experiment that shows that what we “hear” is actually often influenced by what we see.

The second one is the amazing colour changing card trick by Richard Wiseman.  This is also a great way of showing how we often fail to see what is really in front of us:

The third video is even more impressive – though it doesn’t work on all students.  You have to set this one up so that all students are really intently concentrating on the screen – perhaps a prize for the student who gets the answer correct?  Also no talking!  Students have to count basketball passes:

The last one is a good test of whether students are “right brain” or “left brain” dominant.  They have to stare at a rotating woman – some students will see this going clockwise, others anticlockwise.  Some will be able to switch between the 2 views.  If they can’t (I initially could only see this going in an anti clockwise direction) near the end of the video it shows the woman rotating in a clockwise direction to help.  Then rewinding the video to the start – and as if by magic she had changed direction.

If you liked this post you might also like:

Even Pigeons Can Do Maths A discussion about the ability of both chimps and pigeons to count

Finger Ratio Predicts Maths Ability? A post which discusses the correlation between the two.

Bridge Building Lesson Plan

Learning Objectives:  Students are introduced to one of the many careers that they can pursue through mathematics.

5 minutes:

Brainstorm – why is mathematics useful for engineering? What kinds of jobs do engineers do? (refer to maths careers site – a large number of well paid jobs are in engineering)

5 minute

Watch Youtube video interviewing 3 young structural engineers:

5 minutes:

Use the bridge building game to discuss strategies.

5 minutes:

Discuss the different types of bridge structures – plain bridge, arch bridge, suspension bridge. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of these? Brief discussion about force dissipation – which shapes do this well?

5 minutes:

Set up the challenge – each group must build a bridge to span a 1 metre gap. The bridge must be wide enough to support a weight and the stronger the better! Resources are: straws, newspaper, sellotape. Sellotape and newspaper are free – but straws are 1000B a straw. How cheaply can a design be made?

10 minutes:

Students start to plan their bridges.  Watch Youtube video about what happens when bridge design goes wrong:

40 minutes:

Building the bridge.

10 minutes:

Weight testing!

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P3 investigation questions and fully typed mark scheme.  Packs for both Applications students and Analysis students.