Tag Archives: math

How the value of Pi was discovered by a genius – You will be amazed!

I remember being introduced to Pi as a given. Something that I had to accept. An axiom that everyone had agreed with for thousands of years, so no one ever thought to explain where it came, how it was discovered and wether it had any relationship to anything else.

To me it made no sense. It was a magic number ordained from above. Just follow the rules and everything would work out nice and neat and you’d get 20/20 in the exam.

Except that I was one of those annoying kids who hated following rules unless I could see some sense to them. I needed to know the reasons and logic behind the rules. I’m afraid I’m still like that! I was also a very visually-minded kid. I came top in Geometry, while we were using compasses and dividers and scissors and glue, but as soon as we had to involve a bit of arithmetic or algebra… off the ladder I slipped, and down the snake I slid to the bottom of the class.

When writing my book about Archimedes, the man who invented the death ray, I had to get to grips with Pi and explain it, as if to a kid from Ancient Rome.

As I researched the definition of Pi, I had an epiphany – a moment of physical shock and pleasure and enlightenment – even elation. There is actually a reason why Pi equals 3.14 etc. It is dead simple and was worked out by a genius. Why did no one ever tell me this story?

We all naturally assume that the rest of the world think the same way that we do. They don’t. There are billions of ways to wire up a brain. Add family, culture and genetics into the mix, and you can safely assume that no one else thinks like you.

Mathematicians live in a wonderful, shiny world of stainless steel and glass. Any anomalies can be rectified by shifting assumtions one place to the left and creating a different mathematical model (God bless Gödel and his incompleteness theorems!)

Education has recently become obsessed with S.T.E.M. (which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Art has been almost eradicated from the curriculum, leaving a large percentage of the student body lost, mystified and unsatisfied.

There are children who think visually, who think musically, who think in words or emotions, some who think in body movement, all effectively excluded from S.T.E.M., the new orthodoxy in education.

While science, technology, engineering and mathematics are important for the future of the nation, we have to remember that we are humans and not robots. We need all that makes us human. That includes art, music, story, drama, dance… in short, the humanities.

The technological revolution was initially powered by steam, and so should the new technological revolution be powered by S.T.E.A.M.

Adding an A for Art in to STEM keeps humanity in the curriculum and includes the excluded. Steam makes sense of and celebrates arcane subjects, making humans of those who would impose inhumanity on others. We are not robots. We are human. It is art AND science that makes us so.

Watch the video and find out how Archimedes discovered Pi. It may not be true a true story, it may have been embellished over the years, but that’s what makes us human. We are hard-wired to learn from great stories. Leave art, investigation and story out of the mix and we are no longer human.

Archimedes – the Man who invented the Death Ray

Archimedes lived over 2,000 years ago in Syracuse on the island of Sicily.

He was a mathematician, astronomer, physicist, engineer and inventor.

Many of his great inventions came about while defending Syracuse when it came under attack from the Romans.

Click here for signed copies with free poster.

The leader of the Roman army was Marcus Claudius Marcellus. Eventually Marcellus won the war. Archimedes died in the Siege of Syracuse, even though Marcellus had given strict orders that Archimedes should be captured alive. Marcellus admired the genius and knew that he had more invention to offer the world. Who knows how history may have changed if Archimedes had lived to live the rest of his life in peaceful study and contemplation?

In this book, Marcus Claudius Marcellus looks back on his life and explains to his young son exactly why Archimedes was possibly the cleverest person that ever lived.

Here are a few videos that show you how to draw Archimedes and how to get to grips with drawing circles and spheres, the subjects that fascinated Archimedes so much, a fascination that led him to his greatest invention Pi – the number that lets us work out the circumference of circles and the area of the surface of a sphere.


Euclid, The Man Who Invented Geometry – now on iPad

After a crazy summer of hard work, my Euclid project is now ready and available on iPad. I think you are going to love this fresh, exciting new way to learn the basics of geometry for Primary and K-6.

You can download the iPad version here right now – a preview is available for free. It’s got off to a good start in the US!

Euclid – The Man Who Invented Geometry
, is loosely based on Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, which nowadays looks like a very complex text book for a secondary, 7-13 age group.

The wonder of Euclid is his axiomatic approach. He starts with the simplest idea – a point in space – then adds another point and joins them with a line (or a segment if you want to be really precise!) By adding simple concepts, Euclid soon builds up the basics of geometry in easy, understandable steps.

This project is written as a story, with the character of Euclid, a genial old fellow, explaining things to his friends, who make terrible geometry jokes as they try to tease their teacher! (What exactly do sausages have to do with geometry?)

The iPad version has videos built in, to help explain the trickier parts of geometric construction.

The paper book is almost ready. It will be premiereing at the Wigtown Book Festival in Scotland on Saturday the 29th. If you’re that way, come along. Otherwise I’m taking bookings for Euclid days in Schools and Libraries, which should be great fun.

Next will come a book on three dimensional models and how to make them – that should be fun! Maybe Pythagorus after that?

This is my first self-published original project and I’m really proud of it. I’ve aimed it at young mathematicians who need a story and a drawing lesson or two and at artists who like a story and need to learn a bit of mathematics. I’m sure your children are going to enjoy learning the beautiful subject of geometry and will soon find themselves to be “Friends of Euclid”too!

The original videos that inspired this project are on YouTube.