Toilet Thoughts on Learning

5 September , 2009

Toilet thinking

I remember once, when attending confirmation training, we were forced (mildly, I should add) to learn the ten commandments by heart. Me being godless already at the age of thirteen, I thought this was a rather meaningless activity, but played along just to please grandparents and others. I digress – the point not being my own attitude towards the ten laws noone is capable of living by, but rather how the priest wanted us to learn them.

Take this cheat sheet with you, and sit in the bathroom, preferably in the toilet.

As absurd as the ten commandments appeared to me, this last statement proved to be much more vital to me. The priest’s words making a deeper impact than any god’s.

And it works. I can’t think of any better quality study time than the lonesome toilet scenario.

There are, of course, a lot of authors who have appreciated the toilet serenity. Even the guys at MAD magazine have their own Bathroom Companion (the turd in the series). Another favorite of mine is the Great American Bathroom Book, or GABB. In three volumes, they gather single-page (single sitting) summaries of all time best selling books.

At work, I have started the secret toilet-exercise-tournament. I print out A4-sized pages with a mathematics problem printed in large lettering on it. PowerPoint is a nice and easy way of making these poster pages. I am thinking of laminating them, in order to… you know, avoid incidents.
The current problem is this one (I think I read this in a lovely little book by Mike Ollerton, perhaps it was 100 ideas for teaching mathematics):

On a 2×2 grid of dots, you can draw one quadrilateral only. The square. How many quadrilaterals can be drawn on a 3×3 grid of dots?

I have so far just started to deploy these sheets on the toilets, so the ideas keep coming. Perhaps the exercises or problems could be more toilet-oriented (“How many sheets of paper…”,  “what will the radius of the paper holder be…”, “How big is the proportion of people who prefer the toilet paper end to hang on the inside instead of on the outside” etc…)

To be kind to the toilet-goers, you could consider leaving a stash of post-it notes and a pencil available.  Or make a bigger competition out of it; Stick problems on ten toilets in the school, who will be the first one to solve them all…

Suddenly the character “Shitbreak” from American Pie sprung to mind, so perhaps all these toilet exercises will be too weird for a lot of people, I don’t know. Right now it seems like a fun thing to do. If not THE right thing to do.

I will appreciate any suggestions for toilet exercises in the comments. (Pictures are from the flickrCC site). Have a nice weekend!


How much is one million (giraffes)?

12 June , 2009

I just flipped through a book called “How much is a million” (and later found out- others exist with a similar topic).
The points of the book(s) are to visualize to children how they can picture the size of a million objects of some sort.

My previous and current students and pupils more often than not amuse me with creativity and humor. Yesterday, a previous mathematics pupil of mine, Ola, seem to have fallen right into the trap of NOT being able to picture one million objects! 🙂 (…and who can blame him) I really hope he can prove me wrong so that all those mathematics lessons don’t turn out to have been useless, and perhaps he will! He made a bet with a friend, claiming he can collect a million hand drawn pictures of giraffes in around two years time. At the moment of writing he has gotten a few thousand drawings, have published a few hundred of them and has almost six hundred days to collect the rest of them. Being the kind and helpful teacher that I am (or was) I have to help trying to promote his project in several ways:
– I force all my family and friends to send him giraffes
– I promote him on my twitter feed
– I write this blog and cross-post it to my other blogs and facebook

This is the giraffe I sent Ola

This is the giraffe I sent Ola

Other helpful tips for Ola:
– use the next year’s Earth hour for all that it’s worth. The earth needs a giraffe hour.
– I will also try to make all my new students next year draw giraffes of course… This year students faced a similar task, trying to draw a mathematics teacher the way they picture him (I say him, because around 95 % are male. The class thought was pretty strange, because in teacher education, it seems around 90 % are female!)
– How about trying to have giraffe drawing as an exercise in kindergardens, pre-school, primary school (and upper secondary schools and higher education!) all over the world?
– Publishing on the Internet is one thing (or rather, one TEDIOUS thing…), why not make a “Best of the giraffes” and turn it into a book? Or t-shirts… (Next project ?) I’d buy a handpicked-by-Ola giraffe t-shirt anytime.
– Let people comment on each others drawings on the web site. Maybe vote for the best giraffes.
– Get interviews from those who made the bet
– Visit the Kristiansand Zoo for inspiration and giraffe info (this reminds me of Monkey news, from the Ricky Gervais show)
– Schedule interviews with Norwegian TV for children (Portveien 2, a famous children program from the 80-90’s?)
– Get permalinks, so people proudly can display “I’m a part of the onemilliongiraffes project!” on their blogs…
– Ask celebrities to send you their giraffes (some have already done that!)


So, head over to and upload/mms/send/mail/e-mail Ola your giraffe pictures! You can also follow the project on twitter. And while you are at it, you can listen to giraffe music on Spotify, or draw giraffes on Shidonni, that also will walk about and eat the food you draw for them…

*EDIT* Here’s one of several newspaper articles on his project: Aftenbladet. And I have lost count of his television appearances and other spots…

Converting Pi to binary: Don’t do it

28 December , 2008

I haven’t really written much about mathematics. And later I might. For now we are still on the comical note… I stumbled (literally, by using stumbleupon) across a site that claims it’s a good thing we can’t write out pi in binary numbers. If you do, you end up with all finite strings of 0’s and 1’s that is possible. That means, converted to letters, you have infringed copyrights of all written material known to man, you have insulted all religions and all of their fictual characters, you have done all kinds of espionage and written a DVD-cracking program (courtesy of DVD-Jon). Read a bit more over at

Converting Pi to binary: Don’t do

The Darwin Awards

7 December , 2008

The Darwin Awards.

Now for some comic relief. This site is dedicated to those who improve the gene pool of the world by killing of themselves (or making themselves unable to reproduce) in horribly stupid manners.

Read about the terrorist who mails someone a bomb – with insufficient postage, causing it to be returned to sender – And read more hilarious ways to go!