• Apr 212016

The Mullet Ratio

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There will be some who will view the following as not a very sensible way to teach maths. Please think again. There is a place for lively, humour-filled lessons. Why? Because such learning sticks. Try it.

Whilst preparing for some online tutoring recently (on the subject of Ratio) we came across a wondrous post by Matt Vaudrey, a secondary teacher from the U.S.

Now, this man is seriously sparky (sample quote from his biog: “As a secondary educator, Matt Vaudrey wears costumes, plays loud music, stands on desks: whatever it takes to make math meaningful for his students”). The word “genius” is bandied around a lot these days, but we don’t mind saying that a man who teaches a series of lesson on ratio through the medium of the mullet fully deserves the title. This is his blog and the following article barely holds a candle to his inherent genius. If you read our post without looking at his blog, you are missing out people — you are missing out.

This is a mullet:

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do with a fish to fire up the interest in your Year 7 maths class. Thankfully, this is also a mullet:

At this point it’s important to point out a crucial difference between the use of the mullet in maths lessons here in the U.K. and by our American cousins. There is a noble tradition of mullet wearing across the pond (historically, Australia too has a rich seam of mullets to mine). However, in our enviousness at the fine heritage that Mr Vaudrey has to refer to, we must always remember that we have Pat Sharp:

In his post, Mr Vaudrey begins by posing a question. It’s a great place to start a discussion with your students…

We used this as a starting point then to discuss things like “the creative midfielder on the left’s business is not much different from his party, but the retro kid’s TV presenter on the right’s party is a lot longer compared to his business.” And so the idea of the mullet ratio is born.

Matt Vaudrey’s post goes onto discuss how he used this idea by giving values to each length and students could then compare the ratios they devised. We used it in a slightly simplified way, but here are the types of question we came up with:

Firstly, there is the type of question where two values are given for something and students are asked to give the ratio. This is a straightforward question and you can make it slightly more difficult by providing values that can be simplified. The numbers can refer to anything at all (cm, inches, the International Scale of the Mullet) — it doesn’t matter as your students are beginning to work with and think about ratio…

Secondly, there is the type of question where two different ratios are depicted and the student is asked to simplify them in order to compare them…

Finally, there is the type of question where a total amount is given, a ratio is given and the question asks the student to work out the different amounts according to the ratio. Mr Smith has £500 and wants to split it with his children according to the ratio 4:6. How much money will each child have? That sort of thing. Unfortunately, we went a bit to town with this one. Here’s what we came up with…


And there you have it. We are indebted to Matt Vaudrey. Check out his post and, if you like his style, he’s got a book out which features the Mullet Ratio and other sparky lessons (see his comment below). You can find it here. You can also follow him on Twitter here.

Do tweet any pics of how you develop Matt’s idea. We’d love to hear how you get on and will add them to this post.

AN UPDATE: Within about three seconds of tweeting this post (tagging in various people who get a mention) our Analytics showed that we had a visitor from Denver. Now, either Matt Vaudrey lives in Colorado or we’ve just given a presidential candidate an outrageous idea.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Pat Sharp is a legend…

…so is Barry Venison…

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So, what do you think?

  1. Great stuff here. My search for pictures of mullets turned up several cricket players from the 1990s (who–being from the U.S.–I didn’t recognize), and I’ve added Pat Sharp to the mix.
    Interested parties may find additional spark in our recent book, which showcases the Mullet Ratio and other “sparky” lessons from me and my co-author, John Stevens.
    We’d love an excuse to come to the U.K. and discuss the process and hear about British maths innovations. Shoot me an email and let’s make it happen.

    Matt Vaudrey
    5:08 am on April 23rd, 2016
    1. Thanks, Matt. Yours was a great blog post and made us laugh as we’re sure it did your students. The main thing is that the learning stuck with them. Your book looks ace!

      Hope that something comes of your call for maths innovators… Let us know if anyone gets in touch — we’ll spread the word for you. Creative maths teachers would love to know more.

      Sparky
      11:32 am on April 23rd, 2016

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