Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Off limits? By Steve Way


I was speaking with some good friends the other day, including someone I consider to be a talented (though as yet unpublished) writer. I had mentioned writing pieces, particularly for children, incorporating maths topics. My friend (and several others) energetically spoke about how much they hated maths and couldn’t do it etc. and said friend said something along the lines of, ‘I was never interested in maths so I when I went to university I studied English to help me to become a writer.’ This seemed to suggest that mathematics was a topic about which one could not, or maybe even should not write about.

Recently I saw a repeat of an interview given by Billy Connolly at one point railing against comedy purists who insisted that some subjects should be taboo, whereas the sainted Billy believed everything should be on the table. I seem to side with Billy, in my case when it comes to considering mathematics a possible topic for creative writing. Perhaps when you’ve read the couple of examples of my poems below you’ll side with Billy’s detractors!

A while ago one of my grandchildren had to learn about ‘platonic solids’, solids formed from perfect ‘regular’ flat shapes, so in order to help I started writing a poem. My wife made a useful point about cubes and so she gains joint authorship for this poem. I hope you like it and/or find it useful.


Platonic Solids.  By Steve and Jan Way

This poem is about each ‘Platonic solid’,

I promise you it won’t be horrid.

The most well-known has six square sides,

It’s the good old cube that this describes.

A square of course is a perfect shape,

Perfection others only ape.

It’s got four sides of equal length,

And right-angle corners reveal its strength.

This explains this shape platonic

(Plus, you can balance anything on it!)

A tetrahedron you will adore,

It’s made of triangles numbering four.

A pyramid shape it thus does make,

But please don’t make this big mistake,

It’s not for a pharaoh, (an Egyptian a king)

For that with a square base does begin.

Equilateral triangles form the faces

As they do in two more cases…

One by us is octahedron named,

For having eight sides this is famed.

(As an ‘octopus’ would tell you straight,

The prefix Octo- it means eight!)

An icosahedron’s formed from triangles twenty!

Just like me you may think that’s plenty!

The dodecahedron has a different form,

That certainly varies from the norm.

Perfect pentagons form its faces,

So Tents this shape make useful spaces. *


I said these shapes wouldn’t horrid be,

And now we’ve reached the end you see.


*Actually they’re usually ‘pentagonal rotunda’ which are made of pentagons combined with triangles (so are technically half an icosidodecahedron) but they’re called ‘dodecahedron tents’. This what is known as artistic licence (i.e. A creative excuse for getting things wrong!) either on the part of the tent makers or me – or both!


While I was hunting down this poem, having written it a while ago, I stumbled on another poem about 3D shapes, which I’d written even longer ago and was so pleased to find it, I wanted to share it with you. This poem covers the solids children more usually have to learn about. As I imagine most teachers could tell you, children find it very difficult to pronounce the word ‘sphere’ and I have often jokingly had to dodge an imaginary spear having asked a group of children what maths name was given to the tennis ball I was showing them.

3D shapes poem.

A cube is a 3D shape called solid,

I promise you it is not horrid!

Six flat square faces it does show,

(A square is 2D you should know.)

Cubes do their very best to please,

By having eight sharp vertices.

(That’s posh for corners I should say,

Or else we could be here all day!)

Twelve edges it does proudly boast –

A cube it really has the most!


However, you’ll be overjoyed,

To understand the shape cuboid!

Rectangles shape its 3D form,

Proud six of them it does adorn.

Eight vertices cuboids do sport,

“Impressive” You have surely thought!

Twelve edges they are present too –

Surely that impresses you?

I bet if you are really keen,

A pattern you have no doubt seen,

Cuboids and cubes are much the same,

That’s why they have a similar name!


Much different is the pyramid,

About this shape let’s lift the lid,

Of pyramids there are several kinds,

It’s all to do with their… behinds.

From triangles they are mainly made,

And on a base are firmly laid.

A base triangle there can be,

To make a tetrahedron – d’ya see?

Egyptian pyramids have a base that’s square,

That’s why they are still standing there.

But it could be nearly any flat shape,

(I know you may have mouth agape!)


An ice-cream cornet is a cone,

A shape that stands up on its own!

A circle it does form its base

(A cone you see is really ace!)

Above the circle there does stand,

Something you should understand,

Made from a circle less a big slice,

(That’s how you make a cone that’s nice.)


A shape that’s like a tube with ends,

It is a cylinder my friends!

Two circles this time fit,

At the two far ends of it!

The central tube unfolded can,

Be flattened to a rectangle man!


A shape that ends in a triangle,

Is special looked at any angle,

The chocolate makers “Toblerone”,

Have really made this shape their own.

Along the shape you can cut a slice,

Of triangle tasting very nice!

A shape the same along its length,

Has a certain depth and strength,

It has the special name of “prism”,

So watch for them, no do not miss ‘em,

Many shapes mentioned here above,

Are prisms too, so deserve love.*

*Well respect.

Cubes and Cuboids they are prisms too,

Along with cylinders, that’s quite a few.

The triangle gives this prism’s name,

To show it is not quite the same,

Triangular prism it is called,

So now you know, please don’t be fooled


A special shape it is the sphere,

So listen, don’t yet disappear!

In games it would be called a “ball”,

But for us that will not do at all.

It’s curved whichever way you go,

Nothing’s straight (just so you know!)

If sliced from one side to the other,

By a chef, (such as my brother),

Circles small then large would be created,

(This shape should not be underrated!)

A warning for those who speak its name,

A lot of words are much the same,

But “Sophia” it does name a girl,

And “spear” is a thing you hurl!

So careful when you call out “Sphere”!

It’s easy to get it wrong my dear.


Now here my 3D poem’s done,

I hope enjoyed by everyone!


If by some miracle you enjoyed these poems you might enjoy my poem about 2D shapes available on YouTube.


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