Nature’s Code: The life and work of Fibonacci





Fibonacci’s real name was Leonardo Pisano Bogollo. He was born in Pisa, Italy, in 1170. History states that Fibonacci was his nickname which roughly translates as “Son of Bonacci”. His father was a merchant named Guglielmo Bonaccio.

He travelled widely and traded extensively.
Maths was incredibly important to those in the trading industry, and Fibonacci’s passion for numbers was cultivated in his youth. He spent his childhood in North Africa where he studied the Hindu-Arabic arithmetic system and learnt of decimal numbers.



Liber Abaci




In 1200 he returned to Pisa and used the knowledge he had gained on his
travels to write Liber Abaci (published in 1202) which roughly translates as ‘book of calculations’.  The book introduced Indian mathematics to the west and shared his knowledge of Arabic numerals which went on to replace the roman numeral system.


The first chapter of the book states:


Tried & Tested: Gears! Gears! Gears! Space Explorers Building Set

Name: Emma from Me and B Make Tea

Age of child: 3 years

Product Testing:  Gears! Gears! Gears!® Space Explorers Building Set

“Emma is a mum of one very inquisitive boy. He is very nearly four and loves anything to do with science. She blogs over at Me and B Make Tea and loves trying anything science related! Her blog started out as a way to document healthy eating but it quickly grew to cover all things parenting and life.”

What were your first thoughts when the toy arrived?




Brandon, my son, wanted to get the spacemen and rocket out straight away. Daddy helped us stick all the stickers on and set up our gears. Another first thought was that this toy looked bright and perfect for inspiring young imaginations.




How did you use it?

First up we followed the instructions and built the space gears as they are shown on the box. We then experimented with different space scenarios over the next few days.




What are the educational benefits?

This toy is ideal for creative thinking and using your imagination. Brandon learnt how energy travels through the gears to move other gears along the space set up. We played with this toy with him and explained what was happening. I think on his own, he would have got frustrated with trying to put it all together properly. Some adult supervision and help is needed for a 3-4 year old.



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Defying Gravity: The Archimedes Screw


Who was Archimedes?


Archimedes was a Greek mathematician, physician, inventor and engineer, born in Syracuse, Sicily, in 287BC. He was the son of an astronomer and mathematician named Phidias.


In the third century BC, Syracuse was a hub of commerce, art and science. Archimedes developed a natural curiosity and affinity for problem solving. He travelled to Egypt to study in Alexandria before returning to Syracuse, where he dedicated his life to research and experimentation across multiple fields.



The ‘Eureka!’ Moment


Archimedes was summoned by King Hiero to help him investigate whether he had been cheated by a goldsmith. The king had given a goldsmith the exact amount of gold needed to make his crown but the king suspected that he had been cheated and only some of the gold was used and combined with silver. The king asked Archimedes to solve the problem without causing any damage to the crown.


One day when taking a bath, Archimedes noticed that the water level rose as he eased himself into the water. He suddenly realised that a body immersed in fluid loses weight equal to the weight of the amount of fluid it displaces. This discovery excited him so much that he jumped out of the bath tub and ran through the streets naked shouting ‘Eureka!’, which comes from the ancient Greek meaning ‘I found it!’

This realisation meant the he could solve the King’s problem as he was able to measure the crowns density.


Pure gold is very dense while silver is less dense. So, if there was silver in the crown it would be less dense than if it were made of pure gold. The story says that when Archimedes tested this theory in front of the King by submerging the crown in water, he found that he had indeed been cheated by the goldsmith. This method of calculating the way in which an object displaces water to measure volume is called the ‘Archimedes Principle’.



The Archimedes Screw


Historians believe Archimedes invented the hydraulic screw which has come to be known as the Archimedes Screw. A famous story recounts how King Hiero was unable to empty rainwater from the hull of one of his favourite ships and so he called upon Archimedes for his assistance.


He invented a system whereby water could defy gravity and be carried up and out of the boat. This system featured a hollow tube containing a spiral that could be turned by a handle at one end.

When inclined at an angle of 45 degrees with its lower end placed in a body of water, the rotation of the device causes the water to rise in the hollow tube.

His Inventions


Archimedes is responsible for several of the simple machines we still use today including the pulley, the fulcrum and the lever. He invented a lot of these devices whilst he was working to defend the city of Syracuse during war.


Tried & Tested: Zoomy 2.0 Handheld Digital Microscope

Name: Selena Ledgerton

Title: Web, Media & Marketing Manager at All About STEM

Age of testers: 8 Years old – All About STEM Mini-STEMmer

Product Testing: Zoomy™ 2.0 Handheld Digital Microscope 


“Selena works as All About STEM’s Web, Media & Marketing Manager. All About STEM works on numerous projects to bring exciting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to schools across Merseyside, Cheshire and Warrington. They link schools with business, industry & expert volunteers to inspire the next generation of STEM specialists. As part of their work they have ran The Big Bang North West for the last four years, they manage the STEM Ambassador STEM Hub for Cheshire and Merseyside on behalf of STEM Learning and co-manage the Enterprise Adviser Network in the Liverpool City Region for The Careers & Enterprise Company.”



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John Logie Baird: The First Television



Growing Up


John Logie Baird was born in 1888 in Helensburgh, Scotland. He was the fourth child of John, a Clergyman, and Jesse Baird. Throughout his teenage years he was inspired by the scientific and futuristic stories of HG Wells, one of which featured a description of a table-top television.

These stories fuelled a fascination of electronics and entrepreneurship and Baird’s teenage years were spent conducting experiments and building inventions.


He studied Engineering at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College but his time there was interrupted by the outbreak of World War 1. He tried to enlist for the army but was rejected due to ill health.


Following this, Baird tried his hand at many business ventures including:


  • Working at Clyde Valley Electrical Power Company. During his time here he attempted to manufacture diamonds out of carbon using electricity!
  • Inventing a cure for piles. This failed venture left Baird unable to sit down for several days!
  • Starting a business called ‘The Baird Undersock’. Due to illness, Baird ended this business in 1918 after making 15 times more than he could have at the power company.
  • Moving to Trinidad to start a Jam Factory. He returned to London in 1920 after realising he couldn’t stand the climate.



Upon his return he was still brimming with ideas for inventions, but one idea in particular was about to take precedence – television.



First Working Television


In 1923 Baird rented a workshop in Hastings and began to experiment with transmitting moving images along with sounds. Following his previous business ventures he lacked funding and a lot of his equipment included household items such as a hat box, some darning needles and glue. He successfully developed a system that transmitted shapes and shadows from one place to another.   One day, when working on his invention in the workshop, Baird accidentally gave himself an electric shock and survived with
only burns. The landlord wasn’t impressed and asked him to leave!


In 1925, Selfridges Department Store invited Baird to give a three week demonstration of his invention. This was the first time that Baird had demonstrated what he had been working on to the public. His demonstration
involved reproducing the outline of a cross shape, and although this may seem
simple to us now, it was revolutionary as at the time. At this point in history only 1 in 1000 people had a radio set!


Continued success

With the payment from his demonstrations, Baird invested in a home-made laboratory that was located at 22 Frith Street in Soho. This is what this address looks like today, and his laboratory would have been in the rooms above Bar Italia, a commemorative plaque remains on the outside wall.


It was in this laboratory that Baird made a significant breakthrough in his mission to transmit moving images with sound. The lighting Baird had to use was so bright that there was a risk of setting fire to the subject! To overcome this he used the head of a ventriloquist dummy which he named ‘Stookie Bill’. The system was mechanical and scanned images using spinning discs with tiny holes. The light that went through the holes was turned into an electrical signal which travelled down a wire into a television set to show the image of Stookie Bill on screen.


In October 1925, he finally achieved ‘half-tone’ television pictures.

 – John Logie Baird



On the 26th of January 1926, Baird invited distinguished scientists from the Royal Institution and a reporter from The Times to visit his laboratory and witness his latest advancement in his invention. The guests were invited into his small laboratory a few people at a time. They saw the image of Stookie Bill and then took turns to be “televised” in the intense floodlighting. Baird describes the scene in his memoirs:

In one room was a large whirling disc, a most dangerous device,
had they known it, liable to burst at any minute with showers of broken glass… One of the visitors who was being transmitted had a long white beard, part of which blew into the wheel. Fortunately he escaped with the loss of a certain amount of hair. He was a thorough sportsman and took the accident in good part and insisted on continuing the experiment and having his face transmitted.




Two days after the event an article appeared from the reporter present at the event:

 – The Times Reporter



World Firsts


Baird continued to build on his success with several breakthroughs in television:


1927 – Live television pictures were broadcast over 438 miles from London to Glasgow by telephone line and he developed the Baird Television Development Company (BTDC)

1928 – The first transatlantic television transmission took place between London and New York using short-wave radio

1928 – He demonstrated the world’s first colour transmission

The BBC originally adopted Baird’s mechanical television system but dropped it in 1937 in favour of an electronic version that had been developed by his rival company, Marconi-EMI.



Later Life

In 1931 Baird married 43-year old South African Pianist, Margaret Albu. They had two children, Diana and Malcom.

Baird suffered a stroke and died on June 14, 1946 in Bexhill-on-Sea in England. He is buried with his mother, father and wife in Helensburgh Cemetery.




John Logie Baird is remembered as one as one of Scotland’s greatest engineers and a pioneer in television technology. His legacy lives on in many ways, not just in the historical sense but as an example to encourage the younger generation to persevere and innovate.

Since his passing he has been inducted into the Honour Roll of the SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) in recognition of his lifelong contributions and accomplishments.


The Australian Logie Awards are named after him and are considered the Australian counterpart to the Emmy Awards in America.

This statue of Stookie Bill is displayed at Helensburgh’s Outdoor Museum to commemorate Baird as a local and national treasure.


*Browse our STEM and Technology resources on our website!




Sources: read more

Tried & Tested: Sight Word Swat

Name: Tine from Mummy in the City

Product Testing: Sight Word Swat

Age of child: 4.5 years

“Tine is a mum of two young children, and writes the London blog, Mummy in the City.

The blog is focused on life with young children in South West London, and covers everything from London family attractions and services to family travel and children’s products and fashion.”



What were your first thoughts when the product arrived?


It looked fun with the swatters, and I liked the colour coding on the double-sided cards, as this made it easy to sort them for different levels of reading.



How did you use the product? read more

A life of Science: Marie Curie



Marie Curie was born with the name Maria Slodowska on the 7th of November, 1867, in Warsaw, Poland. Her parents were poor teachers and she was the youngest of five siblings. Her father, Władysław, was a maths and physics instructor.


In 1883, Maria received her high school diploma, achieving a gold medal for excellence in mathematics. Her sister Bronia was at medical school in Paris and to help to finance her studies Maria worked as a tutor and governess from the age of 16. Maria’s goal was to join Bronia in Paris to study at the Paris Sorbonne University. In order to pass the entrance exams, Maria took night courses to learn additional chemistry, maths and physics.


Moving to Paris


In 1891, she moved to Paris to study physics and mathematics at Paris Sorbonne University and completed her masters degree in physics in 1893.


Women’s education advocates gave her a scholarship to stay and she earned another degree in mathematics in 1894.


Pierre Curie

It was this year in which Maria was introduced to Pierre Curie, a professor of the School of Physics. He and Maria worked together in a laboratory at the school and they fell in love, in 1895 they were married. It was around this time that she adopted the French spelling of her name, Marie, which is used today.




Pierre and Marie worked together investigating radioactivity, building on the work of Henri Becquerel and Wilhelm Roentgen. This research led to the discovery of a new chemical element in 1898 which they named polonium, honouring Marie’s birth country, Poland. At the end of that year they announced the discovery of another element, radium. Marie Curie developed methods to separate radium from radioactive residues to allow for it to be characterised and studied.


 –Marie Curie

Nobel Prize

The results of their work and perseverance led to a Nobel Prize in 1903 which they shared with Henri Becquerel.  This made history as Marie Curie was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in physics. Following this great achievement, Pierre was appointed to a professorship at Sorbonne and the University funded a laboratory for him. Marie was hired as the head of the laboratory and they continued to work together in their research.



(The certificate for the Curies’ 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics)


End of an Era

On April 19th, 1906, Pierre Curie was tragically killed after falling under a cart on a slippery street. Sorbonne University appointed Marie to the position of full professor in physics, notably the first woman in this position at the university.

In 1911, she won her second Nobel Prize, this time for Chemistry.


To this date no other person has received Nobel prizes for two different sciences.


During the First World War, Marie Curie developed mobile X-ray units to help diagnose injuries near the battlefront. She worked at casualty clearing stations to locate fractures, bullets and shrapnel in soldiers. She also trained several hundred young women to work as X-ray technicians behind the front lines.



(Marie Curie driving a
mobile X-ray unit in 1915)



Marie devoted the rest of her life to establishing Radium Institutes, first in France, then in the 1930s in Poland.

In 1921, President Harding of the United States, on behalf of the women of America, presented her with one gram of radium in recognition of her service to science (worth $100,000 at the time). She visited again in 1929 and President Hoover gifted her with £50,000 to purchase 1 gram of radium for the Radium institute of Poland in Warsaw. The value of radium had declined since her previous visit due to a new source.

During her lifetime Marie undertook physically demanding work involving highly radioactive materials. At the time, Marie and Pierre were oblivious to the effects but they began to suffer from sickness and ill-health as a consequence. On the 4th July 1934, Marie passed away at the age of 66. She was suffering from pernicious anaemia, a condition she developed after years of exposure to radiation through her work.



Her Legacy



Marie and Pierre had two daughters, Irene (1897) and Eve (1904). Irene won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 for her work with aluminium and radiation. Eve became a writer, journalist and pianist and wrote a biography of her mother’s life.



The Radium Institute that she established in Paris is now the Curie Museum employing over 3000 scientists and physicians. Their work is devoted to research in physics, chemistry and medicine with particular attention to radioactivity and cures for cancer.




The 96th element, curium, on the Periodic Table of the Elements was discovered in 1944 and named after Pierre and Marie Curie.



Marie Curie, the charity, is named in honour of Marie Curie the scientist and provides care and support for people living with any terminal illness. The charity’s origins are linked to the Marie Curie Hospital which specialised in the radiological treatment of women suffering from cancer and allied diseases. Marie Curie’s daughter, Eve, gave the charity permission to use her mother’s name. The charity now helps over 40,000 people across the UK.


– Marie Curie Charity


*Browse our STEM and Science resources on our website!


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Numbers in Colour: The History of Cuisenaire® Rods

=&0=&What are Cuisenaire® Rods?

Cuisenaire® Rods are a collection of rectangular rods of 10 lengths and 10 colours, each colour corresponding to a different length. The smallest rod, a white centimetre cube, is 1cm long; the longest, the orange is 10 cm.



One set contains 74 rods: 4 each of the orange (σ), blue (e), brown (n), black (k), dark green (d), and yellow (y); 6 purple (p); 10 light green (g); 12 red ®; and 22 white (w). One aspect of the rods is that, when they are arranged in order of length in a pattern commonly called a “staircase,” each rod differs from the next by 1cm, the length of the shortest rod, the white.

Cuisneaire® Rods are a hands-on teaching resource which can be used to develop a variety of mathematical concepts from addition and subtraction to ratio and spatial reasoning.

History of Cuisenaire Rods

Georges Cuisenaire (1891-1976) the inventor and namesake of Cuisenaire® Rods began his career as a teacher at the age of 20, A native of Thuin, Belgium, this dedicated primary school educator arrived at the idea of expressing numbers in colour through his lifelong knowledge of music.



Cuisenaire found it curious this his students could understand the idea of whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, and eighth notes on a piano keyboard but, for some reason, could not understand similar fractional relationships when studying mathematics. Because notes in music are based on specific mathematical intervals, he began to develop the idea of a “keyboard” for numbers. In 1931, he experimented in the basement of his home with a set of rectangular rods sawed out of wood. The ten rods varied in length from 1cm to 10cm, each with the length painted a different colour. He soon found his students could use the rods to help them “see” and understand numbers and their relationships to each other. The results he obtained when he used these simple coloured rods to teach arithmetic were amazing. Not only did his pupils greatly improve their mathematics skills, but they also enjoyed and understood the work they did. It was clear that the analogy of a keyboard for mathematics worked.

Nevertheless, this invention remained virtually unknown outside Cuisenaire’s small village for the next 23 years. The beginning of public awareness of this system began in 1952 with his publication of a small booklet titled ‘Les Nombres en Coleurs’. But the real increase in public exposure took place one year later, when Geogres Cuisenaire made the acquaintance of Dr. Caleb Gattegno, a mathematics professor at the University of London.

At this point, Dr. Gattegno had been a leading figure in bringing improvement to mathematics teaching at both primary and secondary level for many years. He realised that the rods not only provided a concrete algebraic model but they also provided teachers with a model for making lessons more focused around a child’s personal investigation of maths.

Dr. Gattegno lectured in many countries and spread the word about Cuisenaire® Rods to teachers. His work with children and style of subordinate teaching with the rods demonstrated proven results. These experiences led him to produce a textbook series named ‘Mathematics with Numbers in Colour’, the rest, as they say, is history!