I love Eurovision. I love it because you often see something different or weird or silly. It’s mad and that makes it great.

But recently Eurovision have tamed these impulses. They’ve started to make it less silly and, quite frankly, more boring.

They’ve done this with judges votes. There was a time when telephone voting was all that mattered. And that led to things like the UK giving this glorious entry by Lithuania 10 points in 2006. It also led to Lordi winning in the same year. Lordi!

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This year’s winner was Sweden. It was an OK song. But it was very safe for Eurovision.

But DID Sweden win? Did the judges make a difference? Luckily, there’s a way to find out. Eurovision publishes it’s full results. I simply took out the judges voting and ranked all of the countries by phone voting. (San Marino appear to have to have not done telephone voting, so I’ve excluded their results. This means that their judges decided to give Electric Velvet 3 points. Madness)

According to my calculations, Italy won. By a lot. Here’s the final standings:

Italy 349
Russia 282
Sweden 272
Belgium 190
Estonia 144
Australia 124
Israel 102
Albania 93
Serbia 86
Latvia 83
Armenia 77
Romania 69
Georgia 51
Azerbaijan 48
Poland 47
Noray 37
Montenegro 34
Lithuania 32
Slovenia 27
Spain 26
Greece 24
Hungary 17
Cyprus 8
Germany 5
UK 4
France 3
Austria 0

I’m glad in the real results Germany did better than our AWFUL entry. Sad to see no points for Austria.

I think Judges votes were brought in to get rid of ‘political’ voting (ie countries near each other and having similar cultures liking the same type of song). If that’s the case, it’s failed spectacularly. Russia have LESS points with telephone voting than with judges and telephone voting. All it does it hurt acts like Italy, Eurovision outsiders.

Let’s also talk for a second about another outsider. The learning disabled act Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, who played punk rock. Not Eurovision’s usual thing. They didn’t make it through the semi final.

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But here’s the thing, they should have made it through to the final. They lost exclusively on judges votes. Televoting actually favored them significantly. If it was just based on the voice of the people we’d have seen Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät in the final. And it’s a shame we didn’t. Because since Conchita Eurovision stands for something. Maybe it always has, but it’s more obvious now. It’s about inclusiveness. About similarities not differences, and I think to exclude this band because of the type of music they play was rubbish.

I don’t normally ask people to share stuff. This is a maths website aimed at providing resources to other maths teachers, but please share this. Hopefully if enough people see this, the system might change.

Peace out. My spreadsheet here-> ESC-2015-grand_final-full_results

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about problem solving.

The new maths GCSE introduces a lot of it, and some of the sample questions I have seen include almost Fermi-like questions.

I’ve always liked problem solving, I particularly like the Dan Meyer stuff, but I’ve not written much about it. So here is an example of a problem solving lesson I’ve created.

Problem Solving Lesson : Phone Contracts. 

Equipment required: 
Graph paper
A3 paper

Prior Knowledge Desirable:
Linear graphs

I simply showed students this slide.

phonecontracts

We talked about it for a while. I have obviously had to massively simplify the problem. I was upfront with students about this. We talked about contracts and a little about data, texts and things like WhatsApp meaning that they didn’t really need minutes. This time was important. These questions about the validity of the task I think helped draw out thinking and were useful in getting students into the task. It’s important not to shoot students down when they ask them.

We then talked a little about how the task seemed simple. But it’s deceptive.

The real question comes in how we present our answers. Students started to ask questions. How long does the average person spend on the phone? Do different users have different needs? This last question unlocks the potential of the task.

Which phone is best for which person? How many minutes do you have to be on the phone for before buying the initially more expensive phone is the better option? How can I show this information clearly? 

Students came up with a variety of responses. Not everyone used graphs. Some went around and surveyed other pupils to find out how long they sent on the phone. I liked that idea.

Not all answers/conclusions were of high quality, you can see a selection of student work below, but I’m OK with that.

I will look at these and give feedback next lesson. Hopefully they will gain confidence in this sort of task.

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