Mathematician of the Month – Napier

Logarithm 1Well, what is this ‘log-in-a-rhythm’ up to? And what does this have to do with our celebrated Scottish mathematician of the month – John Napier? A lot, actually. It is this Mr. John Napier who is credited with making an incredible contribution to the field of mathematics, in the form of the invention of the mathematical concept of ‘logarithm’.

John Napier

A logarithm can be defined thus: It is a quantity representing the power to which a fixed number (the base) must be raised to produce a given number.

Didn’t get it? Well, in simpler terms, it is a method by which relatively complicated mathematical calculations involving multiplication and division can be replaced by the simpler mathematical processes of addition and subtraction to arrive at the required result. This process of simplification of large calculations paved the way ahead for many scientists of yesteryears (and is even helping them now!), leading to significant advancements in the fields of science and technology.

As with a majority of the other eminent scientists and mathematicians, Mr. Napier also led a crazy smart life of sorts. He was seen as a virtual recluse – roaming around in his nightclothes according to his whims and fancies, muttering all the while to himself. For some reason unknown to the world, he always carried around a black spider in a small box kept in his pocket.

Legend has it that once upon a time Napier suspected that one of his servants had started stealing from the estate. In order to nab the culprit, he devised a clever plan – a black rooster (that, on a brainwave from Napier, was brushed with black soot), which allegedly was blessed with the power of divination, was kept inside a shed. Each of the servants was asked to go inside and touch the rooster in question, which would eventually come up with the name of the thief. The servants did so; and as expected, one of the fellows that went in came out clean-handed and was rightly proclaimed the thief!

It is said that Napier considered the subject of mathematics more like a hobby; he enjoyed it immensely (It fails me how anyone can enjoy maths and my kids take after me – I have to put in a huge amount of effort just to get them to do their math worksheets… Phew!). . The first time he set foot in a school was at the age of 13 years. But soon he dropped out and not much of his life is known till at the age of 21 years, he bought his own castle in Scotland (aaah, if only wishes were horses, beggars – like me – would ride!). Today, it is a part of the prestigious Edinburgh Napier University.

Theorems in spherical trigonometry (maths that deals with the relations of the sides and angles of triangles), Napier’s bones (a multiplication tool using a set of numbered rods) and extensive books on logarithms are just some of his contributions to astronomy and dynamics, in addition to other areas of physics. Hats off, Mr. Napier!

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DIY Reading Games for the Classroom as well as Home

Kids are never tired! They are always looking for new opportunities, new tricks, and new mischief! Why don’t you channelize the bundles of energy with these reading games that are fun, exciting, and challenging too?

Phonics Flip Book

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When children start learning their letters, the sounds that they make, and they themselves start blending the sounds, it’s time you made a phonics flip book for them. Follow the easy steps below to come up with this nifty tool.

Supplies:

  • Spiral bound index card book
  • A pair of scissors/paper knife
  • Tape
  • Marker/s

It’s ideal to divide the flip chart into three sections for three letter words but you can go ahead by splitting it into four sections to help early readers with their consonant blends.

Cut out the number of sections you want with a sharp paper knife and label each index card with a letter from a-z. You can also add a section for vowels in the center or for common consonant blends like fr, sc, sl, etc. if you’re making the flip book for a little older children.

The objective of a phonics flip chart is not to spell out words impeccably but be able to sound them out perfectly. So if you r child makes a word from the flip book such as ‘SL-I-N’, don’t discourage them, instead appreciate their effort to sound out the imperfect word! Consider blinking the lights when your child sounds out a real word!

Tape the perforations to ensure the flip book lives for long!

Leftover Plastic Easter Egg Cups

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What do you do with leftover Easter egg plastic cups? Here is a novel way of putting them into good use.

Supplies:

  • Plastic Easter eggs (one for each word family)
  • Permanent marker
  • Baking pan
  • Sand

Before you begin prepping for the game, have the kids count the number of Easter egg cups you’ve got in hand; it’s never boring to sneak in a little counting lesson, you see!

Write a word family on the pointy side of the egg cup like, am, in, ed, at, etc. On the other side, write letters, spaced out from one another, that will make both a perfect and an imperfect word when connected with the word family.

Now comes the fun part! Spread a thin layer of sand on the baking pan; the layer should be thin enough to allow finger-writing on it.

Hand over an egg cup to the child and have her make a word from it. If she makes a perfect word, she gets to write that word on the pan of sand! Isn’t that exciting!