February 2017 Monthly Review

For all of you out there who just can’t get enough of me, I know you’ve all been counting down the days and now the wait is finally over – here’s my monthly review video for February 2017. So other than watching seemingly endless episodes of Peppa Pig and In the Night Garden with my daughter what else has been going on?

Well, many of my GCSE students have been sitting their mock exams over the last couple of months which has given them an idea of what to expect on the new GCSE maths exams which students will be sitting for the first time in around May or June. I think many students, and teachers for that matter, have been a bit dismayed at the new exam style – the questions are tougher, more in-depth knowledge is required and students are tested more on their problem-solving skills rather than their ability to parrot out model solutions. There was one question in particular that really caught my eye on one of the papers; it was a fairly difficult question by GCSE standards but it wasn’t impossible. In this video I have a bit of a chat about the question and, though I don’t present a fully worked solution to the problem (that would spoil the fun for you) I do give a bit of an idea as to why the conclusion (which many people made but couldn’t explain) can be justified.

I also talk about what I’ve been up to learning how to speed-solve a Rubik’s Cube (or should I say Twist Game as it isn’t an official Rubik’s Cube that I use any more?) and a couple of books that I’ve read (or partially read), in particular

• The Art of Memory – Frances Yates
• Mathematics, science and epistemology – Imre Lakatos

I’m still practising with my Twist Game (Rubik’s Cube is much easier to say, though) and it’s really fun learning to speed-cube. I still can’t come anywhere close to kinds of times that a proper speed-cuber can achieve but I’m making progress.

Anyway – look out for my video next month and I’m sure I’ll have loads more exciting things to talk about. I bet you can’t wait. Be excellent to each other; and Party on, Dudes.

December 2016 Monthly Review

Here is my monthly review video for December 2016. It was a fairly quiet month in terms of tuition because of Christmas and New Year; not much maths-y stuff going on but there was still plenty happening in other areas.

So in this video I talk about my new toy – a Moyu Hualong speedcube. I love this thing; I wouldn’t call myself a speedcuber but this is definitely giving me the nudge to learn to be one. I’ve always been a bit reluctant to go down the route of learning to be a speedcuber; the reason being that I didn’t think I was up to it because whenever I tried to speed things up with my Rubik’s Cube solving I could get to a certain point and then I would hit a brick wall at just under 1 minute. It turns out that there is a huge difference between a bog-standard Rubik’s Cube and a speedcube and I’ll show you in this video what those differences are and how they genuinely make a difference.

I’ll also talk a little bit about the books that I got round to reading which were

• Born on a Blue Day – Daniel Tammet
• The Real Rain Man Kim Peek – Fran Peek
• 1984 – George Orwell

I’ll be doing another video next month and I think that I’ll have quite a bit to talk about in a month’s time because I’ve got a few projects that I’m working on so hopefully I’ll be able to give a bit of insight into what I’m up to. For the time being, though – Happy New Year and I’ll see you in next month’s video.

John solving the Rubik’s Cube

After re-discovering my Rubik’s cube a few days ago I decided to film myself solving it. I first learned to solve a Rubik’s cube about six years ago but have never actually seen myself solving one – until now.

I first decided to learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube after seeing someone playing with one in the maths department at Warwick University; up until then the Rubik’s cube that I owned had remained unused and unsolved after scrambling it when it first came out of the box and then naturally giving it up as a bad job a couple of days later. Well I started trying to solve the cube again and after a little bit of perseverance I managed to solve part of the cube but not all of it – I needed some help!!

Well now we are blessed with access to a whole range of resources and information on the internet and it only takes a few seconds to Google the phrase ‘Rubik’s cube solution’ and see hundreds if not thousands of web pages that tell you how to solve the cube – which I imagine makes things much easier than when the cube first became popular in the 1980s. It turns out that there’s dozens of different ways of solving the cube, some are faster but more difficult than other more straightforward but slower methods. The method that I ended up learning was a method developed by Lars Petrus, a champion Rubik’s cube solver (apparently); I didn’t make a conscious decision to learn this method over all of the others, I just wanted a way of solving the cube.

A week or so and a lot of practice later thanks to the Petrus method I managed to solve the Rubik’s cube for the very first time. I couldn’t believe it – it took me about 20 minutes from start to finish but I did it. I took the cube everywhere with me and spent hours solving it over and over – eventually getting my fastest solve down to about one minute. I haven’t really got any faster at solving it, in fact I’ve probably got slower at solving it but I love messing around with the Rubik’s cube every now and again.

Some of the fastest “speed-cubers” in the world can solve the cube in less than 10 seconds which is unbelievable – I’m not sure that I’d ever get that good and I’m not really sure if it would really be worth the time and effort but it’s always fun to watch the videos on youtube of the people that can do it; I think if I could get to 45 seconds I’d be quite happy with that. There’s even people that can solve the cube blindfolded, some of them solve the thing blindfolded faster than I can solve it with no blindfold – pretty impressive stuff. I’ll keep you all updated on my progress…