What’s in a name?


Share coke with Sophie

Share coke with Sophie, photo by Sophie Young

My daughter Sophie got me thinking about popular names recently with this picture. With Coke’s current Share a Coke campaign it is possible to find a Coke with your name on the label if your name happens to be in the top popular names as decided by an ‘independent expert’.

Some of those names can be found in the lists compiled by the Office for National StatisticsThis pdf  details the key findings from the data and includes Excel files to download various tables. If you want to download the top 100 baby names for boys and the top 100 baby names for girls use this link. The Comparison Tool from ONS shows clearly how the popular names have changed in ranking. I like the use of Wordle by the ONS to illustrate popular names.

The ONS describe groups of users and uses of baby name statistics which includes those involved in the manufacture and sale of named items (like coke!). The list also includes researchers, who examine how names are changing over the years and possibly how this reflects changes in culture.

I think teachers and students can also be users of the baby name statistics because in my experience it goes down very well with students! After choosing a title for this post I recalled this suggested lesson with the same title from Census at school, a lesson suggested for Year 7 (age 11-12) where learners are asked to investigate popular first names and do a survey for their class on the image of first names and to report their results. This involves data collection, presenting data and designing a survey. Another suggested lesson which I have have successfully used myself is Baby Names from Stats4schools. The lesson involves students investigating the popularity of names and asks whether names get more or less popular over time. 

Students might be interested to see how their school compares to the ONS data.

Further websites offering Statistics on names:

Anna Powell-Smith’s website  England & Wales Baby Names has details of names chosen by parents in England & Wales each year from 1996 to 2010 (based on the ONS data discussed above), using this site makes it easy to see the popularity of a name over time, we could search on Colleen for example!

Entering a name into WolframAlpha shows US Statistics for that name and gives the etymology of the name and notable people with that name.

This Wikipedia entry has the top 10 names for various regions of the world.

And just what you always wanted to know – The Most Popular Dog Names in the English Speaking World!

Websites for Students…and more!

One of the most popular posts on this blog is Top >10 Mathematics Websites. It struck me that it might be useful to think about my top recommendations for students; once again using some categories as well as individual sites gives me the excuse to mention more than 10! So for your students:
Top >10 Mathematics Websites for Students

Back to the teachers!

I have mentioned TED-Ed before with its collection of Mathematics videos, note the feature now offered by TED-Ed to ‘find and flip’ which allows you to use a video and turn it into a lesson; see ‘Flip This Video’.

Looking at some videos, it struck me that something like  Gaurav Tekriwal’s The magic of Vedic Math would be ideal to tinker with! (These ‘tricks’ can make ideal starters, I have linked to some further videos on this page on Number on Mathematics Starters.)

On the subject of videos and TED, have you heard Ken Robinson’s latest talk,
How to escape education’s death valley?


Scratch, from MIT is object-oriented programming language which is very easy to get started with as there is now a new release of the platform availble entirely in a browser; no program downloads are required. The interface is intuitive and easy to use; extensive help is available including a very clear Getting Started Guide and a set of Scratch Cards with clear instructions which will help you learn new Scratch code. Note the Scratch For Educators section.

As you can see from the sprite’s path the above program continues as follows:

Scratch square part 2

Now that’s not a very efficient program! Scratch is a great way to learn programming as well as doing some Maths! We could look at external angles of polygons for example and show how to repeat a set of instructions.

Polygons - external angles

Scratch – drawing an octagon

We could add some sound, change the pen colour or shade, learn about variables and generally have some fun!

Scratch Hmm...

Polygons - external angles version 3

Click the image then ‘See Inside’ at the top of the screen.

Try experimenting with this program which uses variables for the number of lines to draw and the angle to turn through. You will need to sign up to Scratch which is very easy and free.

It strikes me that Scratch could be used for many topics, bearings included.

Stephen Quinn’s dissertation is an investigation into using Scratch to teach KS3 Mathematics and has many ideas as well as useful information on Scratch.

Apps: Scratch Junior for iPad (for young children age 5 to 7)

Thoughts this week …

The Mathematics of Pringles

Hyperbolic paraboloid

WolframAlpha – hyperbolic paraboloid – click on the image for details

One day this week over our break time coffee, the Mathematics department was discussing the shape of a Pringle – as you do! I thought I’d look a little further into this and have it on good authority that a Pringle is a hyperbolic paraboloid. See Professor Benson Farb of the University of Chicago in the video posted on Freakonomics, The Math of Pringles.

Statistics Resources

Last week I mentioned various Statistics resources. A colleague and I used the Census at school site very successfully this week with our Year 8 classes. The students completed the Census at School 12/13 questionnaire on paper for homework then input their results in a computer room at school. The site worked very well indeed and the exercise led to some great observations and discussions by our students. We have now retrieved the data from the site for our two classes and can use that in our lessons this week. Working with data that they have generated themselves is certainly motivating and meaningful for our students.

Mini Tests

I’m still using mini tests for my exam classes, I asked my Year 11 students to sketch the various graphs needed for our exam specification then went on to ask them to sketch some graphs and transformed graphs on the same diagram (see the KS4 resources).