Problem solving

18th February 2000 at 00:00
MATHS MEDICINE. pound;3.60 from Dexter Graphics, PO Box 24320, London SW17 7WQ.Tel 020 8265 5791.

The analogy with medicine of this pocket-sized book of problems is apt - as long as it's pleasant-tasting and with no nasty side-effects.

Problem-solving is good for us. It exercises our mathematical knowledge, skills and understanding; develops our thinking skills and sense of logic and engenders a sharing of ideas. Solving problems boosts our mathematical confidence and bolsters our self-worth.

Professor "you can do it dudes" Smudge offers a daily "dose" of one problem for three months - 92 in all - which vary from the relatively straightforward (Lucy has pound;10. Is this enough to buy 28 32p stamps?) to the considerably more demanding (Gertrude Cliffe is 101.615 years old. How old will she be this time tomorrow? and If the average of a, b and c is a, what is the average of b and c?) The range of mathematics is broad, albeit at a fairly basic level - probablity, averages, percentages, decimals, fractions and algebra are all included.

Several problems could be solved almost intuitively. They would probably be suitable for anyone with a reasonable grasp of mathematics at, say, mid-secondary level, although many could be solved by older primary children.

They would be the ideal tonic for adults wanting to re-energise maths dormant since secondary school. They could certainly boost the mathematical confidence of primary teachers simultaneously conscious of the looming daily mathematics lesson and of their own mathematical insecurity.

How about a daily maths problem for the staffroom? Being able to discuss strategies and solutions with others increases the medicinal efficacy of problems enormously and you can do just that on the book's own website (www.mathsmed. co.uk): e-mail your approach to solving a particular problem and read other people's.

Paul Harrison is a writer of maths books


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