You're reading: Main

Mathematical Activities for the Summer Holidays

In the UK, schools have now broken up for the summer, or are about to, meaning parents face a long six-to-eight weeks of trying to find interesting things for the kids to do. If you or someone you know is in this situation, and the kid(s) in question would like to do some mathematics, we’ve got you covered.

Online resources for primary (ages 5-11)

Always a good shout for mathematical things to do, the wonderful NRICH, who are based at the University of Cambridge, are posting interactive mathematical challenges every weekday from now until 2nd September.

Family maths charity Maths on Toast are posting weekly STEAM activities including craft, construction, puzzles, baking and games, under the banner of Summer Fun with Little Robot. They’re also running a ‘Join-in Project’ themed around Truchet tilings, called Infinity Tiles – participants can send in their own ideas to be featured in an online gallery.

While there aren’t specific summer-themed activities, there are plenty of great resources and thoughts about ways to engage with young mathematicians on the Talking Math With Your Kids website.

The good old BBC Bitesize website has a selection of good interactive games, including several maths-themed ones (now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be playing Karate Cats).

If you’re looking for some summer reading material, our list of recommended maths books for primary children has some good suggestions.

Online resources for Secondary (ages 11-18)

NRICH are also posting daily interactive mathematical challenges for secondary students until 2nd September, including games, puzzles and problems, and the AIMS (African Institute for Mathematical Sciences) posts daily maths problems on its Facebook page.

While they don’t have anything specific for the summer, we can always recommend Mathgon’s online courses and activities, including the incredibly versatile PolyPad, and plenty of puzzles and games.

Just some of the things you can play with in PolyPad

There’s also a great range of mathematical YouTube videos and books to while away the summer days – we’ve got a list of books a 14-year-old might enjoy (now slightly out-of-date), and can highly recommend Ben Orlin’s book of mathematical games which we recently reviewed and chatted to him on a podcast about. For videos, Numberphile is always a good place to look for new content, as well as the TEDEd maths channel, VSauce and Minute Physics, and the inimitable Vi Hart. And if you’re more audio-only, our collection of maths podcasts might have something to suit.

Events and places to visit

If you can get to Leeds, we can highly recommend the wonderful maths discovery centre at MathsCity – with tickets at £6.50 for adults / £4.50 for children aged 3-16 / £18 family ticket, and within easy reach of Leeds train station, it’s a great day out and you can spend hours playing with the interactive exhibits and puzzles. They’ve just launched a great new codebreaking exhibit for this summer, with over 20 interactive coding activities and crafts. There’ll also be bubble-related activities on 6th August, and they’ll be represented at Leeds’ Breeze in the Park events on 17th & 18th August.

In the north-east, numeracy initiative Multiply is running three Multiply Roadshow events in Gateshead. The events will feature much-loved celebrities including Johnny Ball, Scarlett Moffatt and Coronation Street’s Ryan Thomas, alongside family games, crafts, and activities, as well as information about short fully funded maths courses from Gateshead Learning and Skills. (Sadly the Johnny Ball event is happening as we write, but the others are 8th & 15th August).

The Royal Institution in London has a large programme of summer holiday workshops running from 25 July to 26 August, which cost £35 half-day / £50 full day, with discounts available for Ri Young Members. Bursaries to support attendance are available via the Potential Trust (details on the individual session pages under ‘About Our Workshops’).

Bletchley Park remains the classic mathematical historical day out: tickets are £24.50 for adults, £16.00 for 12-17 year olds and it’s free for under-12s – plus the ticket is an annual pass, so you can visit as many times as you want in a year. Over the summer they have a Summer Fun programme including Puzzles and Pastimes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, family guided tours on Fridays, a summer concert series and Top Secret Mission Packs available on entry for £1. They also currently have a temporary exhibition on the Art of Data.

Honourable mention for site-friend Kyle Evans who’s performing his family (7+) maths show Return of the Math(s) (left) at the Edinburgh Fringe from 6-15 August – a ‘fast-paced hour of inclusive maths-based family fun [… including] madcap demos, loads of crowd participation and mind-melting mathematics.’

Mathematical Objects: Fingers with Ben Orlin

Mathematical Objects

A conversation about mathematics inspired by some fingers. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett, with special guest Ben Orlin. Ben’s new book is Math Games with Bad Drawings.


Aperiodical News Roundup – June 2022

Community News

The Spectra Math (@LGBTMath) account has announced that the AMS (American Mathematical Society) has instituted a new policy, based on consultations with Spectra, concerning author name changes. The policy is intended to make its journals more inclusive, especially of trans and non-binary researchers. The policy seeks to provide a simple and efficient way for authors to update their name on published articles in a minimally intrusive way that respects the author’s privacy.

‘Author Name Changes’, on the AMS website

The Eindhoven University of Technology has advertised a post for a Full Professor in Applied Algebra and Geometry, which for the first six months of being advertised will only be open to female candidates. The post is part of the Irène Curie Fellowship program, which is dedicated to reaching at least 30% female researchers on TU/e’s permanent academic staff by 2024.

Job advert: Full Professor in Applied Algebra and Geometry

Igalia, contributors to digital maths writing standard MathML, have announce their intent to ship MathML support in Chromium going forward. They claim this announcement is a big step towards having MathML support enabled in Chromium (and hence Chrome) by default. (via Deyan Ginev on Twitter).

Despite previous big promises, the UK government has failed to deliver a promised £300m in funding for pure maths research, as revealed in a recent meeting of the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee. It’s covered in this Times Higher Ed article (paywalled), or you can watch the proceedings on (via Protect Pure Maths on Twitter).

Maths Developments

Scientists in Japan have built a tiny Möbius strip from carbon nanotube building blocks (New Scientist article).

In a paper titled ‘The Next 350 Million Knots’, mathematician Benjamin A. Burton at The University of Queensland has enumerated all knots up to 19 crossings, meaning we now have a total of 352152252 known distinct non-trivial prime knots (only infinity to go!) (via Ian Agol).

Google’s Emma Haruka Iwao, architect of a previous large π digit calculation record announcement in 2019, is at it again: the 100 trillionth digit of π in base 10 has been revealed to be (spoiler alert) 0. According to a post on the Google Blog, the calculation took over 157 days and processed around 82,000 terabytes of data.


The ICMS (International Centre for Mathematical Sciences) in Edinburgh has instituted a visiting fellow in music, with the inaugural recipient being Julien Lonchamp, an orchestral composer who has scored a number of short films.

He is interested in how sound and music work at the interface with other disciplines, including visual art and science. He aims to create novel immersive “sound-worlds” by combining a wide range of composition processes in order to communicate abstract or complex ideas.

ICMS press release

If you enjoyed this news item, check out his Soundcloud.

Since these news items are saved up for the end of the month, we can exclusively reveal that registration for the virtual ICM (International Congress of Mathematics) 2022 is both open, and already full. Luckily all lectures will be recorded and made available online afterwards.

And finally

Screenshot from the video, showing a person juggling three partly-solved cubes next to a timer
Photo: Guinness World Records

The most important news item of the month was that Guinness has announced the world record for solving three Rubik’s cubes while juggling them was recently smashed by Colombian 19-year-old Angel Alvarado. There’s a video of the new record solve, which took 4:31.01 (beating Angel’s own previous record of 4:52.43, set in May 2021).

Mathematical Objects: Quarto

Mathematical Objects

A conversation about mathematics inspired by the game Quarto. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett.

Quarto board and pieces

Mathematical Objects: Slinky

Mathematical Objects

A conversation about mathematics inspired by a slinky. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett.


Particularly mathematical Birthday Honours 2022

In all the Jubilee fun, you may have missed the announcement of the UK Government’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Here’s our selection of particularly mathematical entries for this year – any more, let us know in the comments and we’ll add to the list.

  • Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation, UK Statistics Authority. Made Companion of the Order of the Bath for public service.
  • Fiona Steele, Professor of Statistics, London School of Economics. Appointed CBE for services to Statistics in the Social Sciences.
  • Nicholas Davies, Assistant Professor of Mathematical Modelling, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Appointed MBE for services to the Covid-19 Response.
  • Isobel Jessie Falconer, Reader of Mathematics, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews. Appointed MBE for services to the History of Mathematics and Science.
  • Charlotte Deane, Professor of Structural Bioinformatics, University of Oxford. Appointed MBE for services to Covid-19 Research. (Thanks to Vicky Neale for the tip!)

Get the full list of honours on