Silly Questions Amnesty

Got something that's bugging you about maths? Post it below for a no-names-no-packdrill reply.

It doesn't matter how silly. If your one-times table is eluding you, give me a shout and we'll figure it out.


Colin is a Weymouth maths tutor, author of several Maths For Dummies books and A-level maths guides. He started Flying Colours Maths in 2008. He lives with an espresso pot and nothing to prove.


4 comments on “Silly Questions Amnesty

  • Robert Anderson

    It seems that Ramanujan said:

    1 + 2 + 3 … = -1/12

    For instance, it is mentioned in the play A Disappearing Number. It\’s mentioned here: and here
    But that can\’t be right! What is he on about?

    • Colin

      Best question EVER.

      In honesty, I have no idea, even after looking it up.

      It seems like Euler came up with the same \’answer\’ a different way, using something called zeta function normalisation; Ramanujan came up with another method using the partial sums. I don\’t understand either of them, but might put some work into putting that right.

      To the best of my gathering, both of the methods give a number that\’s not a sum in the normal sense, but a number that helps classify divergent series (ones which don\’t have a well-defined limit — like this one).

      Some links that might help:

      Thanks for the question — sorry I can\’t be more help!

      • Robert Anderson

        Watch this!
        I’m even more baffled now because the ‘proof’ is not all that complicated…

        • Colin

          I’ve written a piece that explores the ‘traditional’ analysis of it (which says, of course, that it’s undefined) – going live tomorrow (January 15th).

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Where do you teach?

I teach in my home in Abbotsbury Road, Weymouth.

It's a 15-minute walk from Weymouth station, and it's on bus routes 3, 8 and X53. On-road parking is available nearby.

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