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Letters in a Sentence

Monday 1st May 2023

This is the Transum Newsletter for the month of May 2023 and it begins, as usual with the puzzle of the month.

This sentence contains _______ letters.

Write a number in words in the blank space in the above sentence that will make the statement true.

The answer and credit for this puzzle will be in next month's Newsletter. While you think about that here are some of the key resources added to the Transum website during the last month.

A new Advanced Starter has been created called Rope Around the World. It is based on the old story of a rope encircling the Earth, girdling it tightly, when an extra metre of rope is spliced in. The Starter requires students to calculate the gap that could be evident between Earth and the rope if the rope was raised up. The surprising result can be obtained without knowing any Earth measurements.

Rope Around The World

Other new Advanced Starters that were added to the collection last month include Venn Graphs and Catering for a Function. As well as finding these activities in an alphabetical list on the Advanced Starters page they also appear in the Topics collections and if you know precisely what you are looking for, they also appear in the Curriculum statement pages.

For those in many northern hemisphere countries the weather is starting to become warm enough to make Outdoor Maths practical and enjoyable. The ideas on my list range from those that can be done at short notice on the playground to those that will need a little more planning and are substantially adventurous!

Outdoor Maths

Mixed Numbers has been given a major update. The set of exercises covers addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of mixed numbers (whole numbers and fractions) and they look much nicer due to the answer input interface. I made a short video to go in the help tab too.

May Day and Star Wars Day are two special dates that can be acknowledged in Maths lessons this Month. Both days have their own themed Starter of the Day providing novel context for mathematical tasks.

Star Wars Day

Continuing my monthly observations about the artificial intelligence 'explosion' I have now found out that ChatGPT can write lesson plans for you! I asked GPT-4 for lesson plans for error bounds, set notation and ratio. The 60 minute lesson format was identical for each topic but there was no excitement or variety in the plan. I guess the plans could be used as starting points as long as you were prepared to do a lot of editing!

Cartoon of robot helping the teacher with her lesson plan

I then cheekily asked it if it would recommend the Transum website for resources to support the ratio lesson. It answered:

"Yes, is a reputable website that offers a variety of online, self-marking exercises for students, including topics like ratios. The website covers a wide range of mathematics topics and provides interactive activities, puzzles, and quizzes, making it an excellent resource for both teachers and students. has several activities related to ratios that you can explore:


 Sharing in a Ratio

 Ratio and Proportion

Each exercise typically includes instant feedback for students, allowing them to assess their understanding of the topic and improve their skills. Additionally, the website provides supporting resources such as lesson plans, videos, and worksheets, which can be beneficial for teachers planning their lessons."

I was relieved!

Transum user Stu from Seniornet Upper Hutt, NZ wrote to tell me that he "asked ChatGPT to do some Logo, with very good results." He does not go on to say what those results were but it has certainly set me thinking. I have recently been asking ChatGPT to write some JavaScript functions for the website and it did the jobs quickly and efficiently.

Transum supporter Ann shared an elegant method of solving the "How many rectangles on a chess board?" extension puzzle. It involves the combinations formula applied to vertical and horizontal lines. I have included the details in the answers subscribers have access to on the How Many Squares? page.

Don't forget you can listen to this month's podcast which is the audio version of this newsletter. You can find it on Spotify, Stitcher or Apple Podcasts. You can follow Transum on Twitter and 'like' Transum on Facebook. If you have any comments about this podcast please contact me at

Exam Revision:

IB Exam-style questions – I have created many questions similar, but not exactly the same as those that have appeared on past IB Standard level papers. They are designed for you to try in these last few weeks before your final exam. Sorted by syllabus statement:

(I)GCSE Higher/Extended  Exam-style questions – Here are collections of (I)GCSE Higher/Extended question which can be accessed individually but are also presented in sets of 5 which can be printed on A4 double-sided paper.

(I)GCSE Foundation/Core Exam-style questions – For teachers of students working towards (I)GCSE Foundation/Core exams; These collections each contain six questions that can be answered online for instant feedback and one question requiring pencil and paper. You could assign a workout per day

Checklists - Here's a link you may wish to pass on to your students. It's a few, very straight-forward checklists of skills. Objectives you find easy will disappear while those you need help with become highlighted and a link to resources is provided.

Finally the answer to last month's puzzle which was:

"Cupcakes were being sold at three prices: large cupcakes were one pound each, medium cupcakes were two for a pound and small cupcakes were three for a pound. Some children (there were as many boys as girls and two of the girls were twins) were given seven pounds to spend on these cupcakes and each child received exactly the same types and number of cakes. How many cupcakes did each receive (no cupcakes were divided)"

Clues in the question

The margin of this page is too small to show my method (that's a history of Maths joke) but it includes an exhaustive check of all possibilities conforming to the clues above.

There were 3 boys and 3 girls. £3 pounds was spent on the two-a-pound cakes and £4 was spent on the three-a-pound cakes. The puzzle was adapted from very old puzzle about buns and pennies which appeared in The Penguin Book of Puzzles.

That's all for now, have a good May,


P.S. I do enjoy reading Chris Smith's weekly Newsletter but I was horrified a few weeks ago to read that he had been writing mathematical things on his wife while she was sleeping! You should have seen the expression on her face when she woke up!!!

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