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Year 6 is inspired by a day of murderous maths

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Year 6 didn’t know quite what to expect when they set out for the maths day at Ampleforth.

Some knew it was being led by Old Terringtonian Kjartan Poskitt, author of the Murderous Maths books. Others remembered Kjartan’s speech day address of two years’ ago when he mesmerised his young (and old) audience with his magic tricks.

Nothing quite prepared them, however, for the boundless ball of energy that fizzed off all cylinders as he shared his knowledge, enthusiasm and great love of all things to do with maths and numbers.

Holding his audience of 107 children in the palm of his hand, Kjartan quickly ranged over Pythagoras’ theorem upon which today’s skyscrapers and rockets to the moon depend, not forgetting of course to point out that Pythagoras himself was a murderer. Along the way, he explored the claim that Pythagoras invented music and gave a lightning speed tour of the mathematical basis upon which the frets on a guitar are calculated.

Next, we were introduced to the paradox which drove Pythagoras to murder – the paradox of the hare and the tortoise whereby the hare (who can run twice as fast as the tortoise) can never catch the tortoise. Our very own Theo Hoggard took a starring role as the tortoise in Kjartan’s demonstration.

All this in the first five minutes and our brains were fizzing.

Next, it was onto the strange properties of the number 1089. Anyone can learn the 1089 times table in 15 seconds flat. Ask any member of Year 6 and they’ll show you how.

Then there was how to cut a cube of cheese into 93 piece with 8 straight cuts.

Or how to cut up an old birthday card into one connected piece which would fit round 8 people.

After an hour of such mind-bending information and demonstration, it was off to cafeteria for lunch and to admire the fresh covering of snow outside.

Lunch finished, an advanced group were led off for a session under Kjartan. The main group, under the direction of Ampleforth College’s Dr Hannah Pomroy (who will lead the evening lecture on Growth Mindset this coming Monday), worked in teams to solve a murder a la Cluedo.

Joe C and David worked hard and successfully unravelled some coded runes; Hannah and Sophia decoded a semaphore message; Hattie and Lucy solved a Caesar shift cipher; and Freddie solved an Esio Trot style puzzle.

With all children back together, the day concluded with a poison chocolate folding game in which Kjartan showed the children how they could make sure they always won; an awe-inspiring introduction to the sheer scale of the stars in our solar system; and a mesmerising demonstration of flexomania (see www.kjartan.co.uk).

The day proved a wonderful way of demonstrating to the children the sheer thrill of playing with numbers; of giving them the opportunity to discover inherent patterns within them and to see how to manipulate them. Best of all, to see a master at work creating sheer magic from the world of mathematics.

Our thanks to Kjartan Poskitt and to Ampleforth for hosting such an awe-inspiring day!

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