Culture Schools

    Homework club: liven up your child’s learning with these fun facts

    24 March 2020

    We’re all home-schoolers now. Which hopefully can act as a reminder that the best learning appeals to adults and children alike. A beautiful fact will make people of all ages laugh, question and discuss.

    Each week Spectator Life is going to deliver you a handful of these gems, as jumping-off points for your home-learning. There’s no set way to use them, no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ responses. We’ll sometimes add suggested questions to get you thinking, but feel free to take another route if that’s how you or your child react.

    For instance the first fact below could make you ask ‘why did pilgrims go to Canterbury?’ … or it could lead you to research the question of whether a horse’s four feet are ever off the ground at the same time. (Look up The Horse in Motion by Eadweard Muybridge – it’s great fun.)

    However you use the Homework Club material, make sure you enjoy it. As Einstein said: ‘The important thing is to not stop questioning.’


    The word ‘canter’ comes from Canterbury – it was a comfortable speed for a pilgrim’s horse as they rode to the city.


    111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

    Or, if you prefer, ‘12 quadrillion, 345 trillion, 678 billion, 987 million, 654 thousand, three hundred and twenty-one.’

    Try writing this out as a long multiplication. Can you see the beautiful pattern that emerges?


    The Duke of Devonshire’s title is a mistake – he should actually be the Duke of Derbyshire. That’s where the family seat of Chatsworth is located. But somebody (possibly James I himself) made an error when the title (originally the Earl of Devonshire) was created for William Cavendish in 1618.


    Canberra is the capital of Australia – but only because Sydney and Melbourne were incapable of deciding which of them should be awarded the title. Canberra was built purely to take on the role.


    Ever wondered why your first two points in tennis score 15 each, but the third only gets you ten? It’s because the game was originally scored on a clock face. On the first point the hand was moved to quarter past, on the second to half past and on the third to quarter to. The fourth point won you the game, moving the hand back to the top of the hour. But then the rule of winning by two clear points was introduced – so the ‘quarter-to’ point was moved back to the 40 minute mark, with ‘advantage’ being shown at 50 minutes.

    Science and nature

    The Eiffel Tower grows six inches in summer. It also leans slightly away from the Sun.

    Why should this be?

    We’ll save the answer for a future Homework Club. In the meantime, we’ll leave you this week with the fact that the French author Guy de Maupassant ate lunch at the tower every day. He hated the structure, and went there because it was the only place in Paris from which he couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower.