William The Maths Bear's 'Paws For Thought' December 2016

5th December 2016

Hello Tiny Humans!

Is everyone getting excited about the Christmas holidays? Whether you celebrate Christmas or not it’s still a great time of year to get the family together and enjoy some well-earned time off.

There have been some interesting stories in the news recently, I was very excited to see that researchers have been using mathematical modelling to attempt to improve our experience of the perfect cup of coffee, made by using a drip filter machine.

There are 10 million of these machines sold every year in Europe making up more than half of all coffee machines. Previous studies have focused on the mathematics of coffee extraction and ignored the drip filter brewing system machines.

These machines involve pouring hot water over a bed of coffee grounds in a filter. Gravity pulls the water through the filter, extracting soluble compounds from the coffee grains during the flow, 'BBC News' reported.

"Our overall idea is to have a complete mathematical model of coffee brewing that you could use to design coffee machines, rather like we use a theory of fluid and solid mechanics to design racing cars," Lee said.

"We looked at the effect of coffee grain size on the way that coffee comes out of a filter coffee machine.”

"The really surprising thing to us is that there are really two processes by which coffee is extracted from grains. There is a very quick process by which coffee's extracted from the surface of the grains. And then there's a slower tail-off where coffee comes out of the interior of the grains," he said. 

You need to adjust the grind size and the water flow rate to get your ideal cup of coffee as there is an element of personal preference I’m told. Coffee is composed of more than 1,800 chemical components and at least two billion cups a day are consumed worldwide so I’m guessing a lot of people could potentially benefit from this research!

Cash Incentive

On a more educational note, I read about a fascinating study recently in which Australian researchers incorporated money and cash into schoolchildren’s maths lessons and taught them about financial literacy in an effort to make maths more relevant to their real lives.

Children often complain that they will never use maths in the real world but as the project leader, Associate Professor Catherine Attard from the School of Education explains "To remedy this, we worked with teachers to provide new and purposeful learning activities and projects based on financial topics such as value for money, profit and loss, loans and credit cards."

The experiment seems to have been a resounding success! "At the beginning of the project, almost all of the participants had a very narrow view of money, simply knowing basic concepts such the difference between rich and poor, and money's importance for food, water and shelter," Professor Attard says.

"By the end, most of the students were very interested in the topic of money, and were able to link their discussions to their own lives, and understand complex concepts such as value for money, lending, interest rates, and mortgages."

"Most importantly, they had fun working on their projects and wanted to learn more, with reports of young students emailing teachers for advice and getting parents involved in their learning."

Perhaps money should be incorporated into more maths classes in the UK too, not too much - just enough to pique children’s interest. Financial literacy is something we all need to have, and I know I found my first credit card extremely confusing! Perhaps this might have helped me too… 

Anyway I'm off to the North Pole to visit my family, and then I shall be attending the BETT Show with the team next month! I can't wait...

Have a wonderful holiday and take care… Till next month tiny humans!