# December Advent Math from Nrich

[Feature photo (above) by Austin Kirk via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).]

Click on the pictures below to explore a mathy Advent Calendar with a new game, activity, or challenge puzzle for each day during the run-up to Christmas. Enjoy!

### Advent Calendar 2014 – Secondary

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# Math Debates with a Hundred Chart

Wow! My all-time most popular post continues to grow. Thanks to an entry from this week’s blog carnival, there are now more than thirty great ideas for mathematical play:

The latest tips:

(31) Have a math debate: Should the hundred chart count 1-100 or 0-99? Give evidence for your opinion and critique each other’s reasoning.
[Hat tip: Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Instructional Conundrum: 100 Board or 0-99 Chart?]

(32) Rearrange the chart (either 0-99 or 1-100) so that as you count to greater numbers, you climb higher on the board. Have another math debate: Which way makes more intuitive sense?
[Hat tip: Graham Fletcher, Bottoms Up to Conceptually Understanding Numbers.]

(33) Cut the chart into rows and paste them into a long number line. Try a counting pattern, or Race to 100 game, or the Sieve of Eratosthenes on the number line. Have a new math debate: Grid chart or number line — which do you prefer?
[Hat tip: Joe Schwartz, Number Grids and Number Lines: Can They Live Together in Peace? ]

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# Fractions: 1/5 = 1/10 = 1/80 = 1?

[Feature photo is a screen shot from the video “the sausages sharing episode,” see below.]

How in the world can 1/5 be the same as 1/10? Or 1/80 be the same as one whole thing? Such nonsense!

No, not nonsense. This is real-world common sense from a couple of boys faced with a problem just inside the edge of their ability — a problem that stretches them, but that they successfully solve, with a bit of gentle help on vocabulary.

Here’s the problem:

• How can you divide eight sausages evenly among five people?

Think for a moment about how you (or your child) might solve this puzzle, and then watch the video below.

# Reblog: Solving Complex Story Problems

[Dragon photo above by monkeywingand treasure chest by Tom Praison via flickr.]

Over the years, some of my favorite blog posts have been the Word Problems from Literature, where I make up a story problem set in the world of one of our family’s favorite books and then show how to solve it with bar model diagrams. The following was my first bar diagram post, and I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide whether “one fourth was” or “one fourth were.” I’m still not sure I chose right.

I hope you enjoy this “Throw-back Thursday” blast from the Let’s Play Math! blog archives:

Cimorene spent an afternoon cleaning and organizing the dragon’s treasure. One fourth of the items she sorted was jewelry. 60% of the remainder were potions, and the rest were magic swords. If there were 48 magic swords, how many pieces of treasure did she sort in all?

[Problem set in the world of Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Modified from a story problem in Singapore Primary Math 6B. Think about how you would solve it before reading further.]

How can we teach our students to solve complex, multi-step story problems? Depending on how one counts, the above problem would take four or five steps to solve, and it is relatively easy for a Singapore math word problem. One might approach it with algebra, writing an equation like:

$x - \left[\frac{1}{4}x + 0.6\left(\frac{3}{4} \right)x \right] = 48$

… or something of that sort. But this problem is for students who have not learned algebra yet. Instead, Singapore math teaches students to draw pictures (called bar models or math models or bar diagrams) that make the solution appear almost like magic. It is a trick well worth learning, no matter what math program you use …

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# Reblog: The Handshake Problem

[Feature photo above by Tobias Wolter (CC-BY-SA-3.0) via Wikimedia Commons.]

Seven years ago, our homeschool co-op held an end-of-semester assembly. Each class was supposed to demonstrate something they had learned. I threatened to hand out a ten question pop quiz on integer arithmetic, but instead my pre-algebra students voted to perform a skit.

I hope you enjoy this “Throw-back Thursday” blast from the Let’s Play Math! blog archives:

If seven people meet at a party, and each person shakes the hand of everyone else exactly once, how many handshakes are there in all?

In general, if n people meet and shake hands all around, how many handshakes will there be?

1-3 narrators

### Props

Each friend will need a sheet of paper with a number written on it big and bold enough to be read by the audience. The numbers needed are 0, 1, 2, 3, … up to one less than the number of friends. Each friend keeps his paper in a pocket until needed.

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# Natural Math Multiplication Course

This April, the creative people at Moebius Noodles are inviting parents, teachers, playgroup hosts, and math circle leaders to join an open online course about multiplication. My preschool-2nd grade homeschool math group is eager to start!

Each week there will be five activities to help kids learn multiplication by exploring patterns and structure, with adaptations for ages 2-12.

The course starts April 6 and runs for four weeks.

## Preliminary Syllabus

Week 1: Introduction.
What is multiplication? Hidden dangers and precursors of math difficulties. From open play to patterns: make your own math. 60 ways to stay creative in math. Our mathematical worries and dreams.

Week 2: Inspired by calculus.
Tree fractals. Substitution fractals. Multiplication towers. Doubling and halving games. Zoom and powers of the Universe.

Week 3: Inspired by algebra.
Factorization diagrams. Mirror books and snowflakes. Combination and chimeras. Spirolaterals and Waldorf stars: drafting by the numbers. MathLexicon.

Week 4: Times tables.
Coloring the monster table. Scavenger hunt: multiplication models and intrinsic facts. Cuisenaire, Montessori, and other arrays. The hidden and exotic patterns. Healthy memorizing.

Sounds like lots of fun!

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# Algebra for (Almost) Any Age

Fawn Nguyen’s Visual Patterns website just keeps getting better and better. Check it out:

In addition to the 115 puzzle patterns (as of this writing), the site features a Gallery page of patterns submitted by students. And under the “Teachers” tab, Fawn shares a form to guide students in thinking their way through to the algebraic formula for a pattern.

How can you use these patterns to develop algebraic thinking with younger students? Mike Lawler and sons demonstrate Pattern #1 in the YouTube video below.

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# Things To Do with a Hundred Chart #30

Here’s one more entry for my 20+ Things to Do with a Hundred Chart post, thanks to David Radcliffe in the comments on Monday’s post:

(30) Can you mark ten squares Sudoku-style, so that no two squares share the same row or column? Add up the numbers to get your score. Then try to find a different set of ten Sudoku-style squares. What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Can you think of anything else we might do with a hundred chart? Add your ideas in the Comments section below, and I’ll add the best ones to our master list.

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# Things To Do with a Hundred Chart #29

Here’s a new entry for my 20+ Things to Do with a Hundred Chart post:

(29) Blank 100 Grid Number Investigations: Challenge your students to deduce the secret behind each pattern of shaded squares. Then have them make up pattern puzzles of their own.

Can you think of anything else we might do with a hundred chart? Add your ideas in the Comments section below, and I’ll add the best ones to our master list.

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# A Pretty Math Problem?

As we were doing Buddy Math (taking turns through the homework exercises) today, my daughter said, “Oooo! I want to do this one. It’s pretty!”

She has always loved seeing patterns in math. I remember once, years ago, when she insisted that we change the problems on a worksheet to make the answers come out symmetrical. :)

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# Math That Is Fun: Infinite Primes

Oh, my! Ben Orlin over at Math with Bad Drawings just published my new favorite math proof ever:

I had a fight with Euclid on the nature of the primes.
It got a little heated – you know how the tension climbs.

It started out most civil, with a honeyed cup of tea;
we traded tales of scholars, like Descartes and Ptolemy.
But as the tea began to cool, our chatter did as well.
We’d had our fill of gossip. We sat silent for a spell.
That’s when Euclid turned to me, and said, “Hear this, my friend:
did you know the primes go on forever, with no end?” …

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# Multiplying Negative Numbers with Rectangles

I love using rectangles as a model for multiplication. In this video, Mike & son offer a pithy demonstration of WHY a negative number times a negative number has to come out positive:

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# New Math by Tom Lehrer

While I was working on the next post in my PUFM Series, I stumbled on an old favorite video. Since I couldn’t think of an excuse to use it in a post about multiplication, I decided to share it today. Enjoy!

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# Problem-Solving Poll: What’s Your Answer?

[Photo by Alex E. Proimos via flickr.]

Patrick Vennebush, author of Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks (the book and the blog) wants to know how you and your children would answer a tricky math problem.

I have often heard that, “Good teachers borrow, great teachers steal.” So today, I am stealing one of Marilyn Burns’s most famous problems. She takes this problem to the streets, and various adults give lots of different answers. When I’ve used it in workshops, even among a mathy crowd, I get lots of different answers, too.

“A man buys a truck for $600, then sells it for$700. Later, he decides to buy it back again and pays $800 dollars. However…” Go to Patrick’s blog to read the whole problem and submit your answer. Let everybody in the family try it! Update: Patrick posted the solution and percentages correct for students of various ages. Get all our new math tips and games: Subscribe in a reader, or get updates by Email. # Lockhart’s Measurement After watching the video on the Amazon.com page, this book has jumped to the top of my wish list. You may have read Paul Lockhart’s earlier piece, A Mathematician’s Lament, which explored the ways that traditional schooling distorts mathematics. In this book, he attempts to share the wonder and beauty of math in a way that anyone can understand. According to the publisher: “Measurement offers a permanent solution to math phobia by introducing us to mathematics as an artful way of thinking and living. Favoring plain English and pictures over jargon and formulas, Lockhart succeeds in making complex ideas about the mathematics of shape and motion intuitive and graspable.” If you take any 4-sided shape at all — make it as awkward and as ridiculous as you want — if you take the middles of the sides and connect them, it always makes a parallelogram. Always! No matter what crazy, kooky thing you started with. That’s scary to me. That’s a conspiracy. That’s amazing! That’s completely unexpected. I would have expected: You make some crazy blob and connect the middles, it’s gonna be another crazy blob. But it isn’t — it’s always a slanted box, beautifully parallel. WHY is it that?! The mathematical question is “Why?” It’s always why. And the only way we know how to answer such questions is to come up, from scratch, with these narrative arguments that explain it. So what I want to do with this book is open up this world of mathematical reality, the creatures that we build there, the questions that we ask there, the ways in which we poke and prod (known as problems), and how we can possibly craft these elegant reason-poems. — Paul Lockhart author of Measurement Get all our new math tips and games: Subscribe in a reader, or get updates by Email. # Rate × Time = Distance Problems I love how Richard Rusczyk explains math problems. It’s a new school year, and that means it’s time for new MathCounts Mini videos. Woohoo! # Build Mathematical Skills by Delaying Arithmetic, Part 4 To my fellow homeschoolers, While Benezet originally sought to build his students’ reasoning powers by delaying formal arithmetic until seventh grade, pressure from “the deeply rooted prejudices of the educated portion of our citizens” forced a compromise. Students began to learn the traditional methods of arithmetic in sixth grade, but still the teachers focused as much as possible on mental math and the development of thinking strategies. Notice how waiting until the children were developmentally ready made the work more efficient. Benezet’s students studied arithmetic for only 20-30 minutes per day. In a similar modern-day experiment, Daniel Greenberg of Sudbury School discovered the same thing: Students who are ready to learn can master arithmetic quickly! ## Grade VI [20 to 25 minutes a day] At this grade formal work in arithmetic begins. Strayer-Upton Arithmetic, book III, is used as a basis. The processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are taught. Care is taken to avoid purely mechanical drill. Children are made to understand the reason for the processes which they use. This is especially true in the case of subtraction. Problems involving long numbers which would confuse them are avoided. Accuracy is insisted upon from the outset at the expense of speed or the covering of ground, and where possible the processes are mental rather than written. Before starting on a problem in any one of these four fundamental processes, the children are asked to estimate or guess about what the answer will be and they check their final result by this preliminary figure. The teacher is careful not to let the teaching of arithmetic degenerate into mechanical manipulation without thought. Fractions and mixed numbers are taught in this grade. Again care is taken not to confuse the thought of the children by giving them problems which are too involved and complicated. Multiplication tables and tables of denominate numbers, hitherto learned, are reviewed. — L. P. Benezet The Teaching of Arithmetic II: The Story of an experiment # Build Mathematical Skills by Delaying Arithmetic, Part 3 To my fellow homeschoolers, How can our children learn mathematics if we delay teaching formal arithmetic rules? Ask your librarian to help you find some of the wonderful living books about math. Math picture books are great for elementary students. Check your library for the Time-Life “I Love Math” books or the “Young Math Book” series. You’ll be amazed at the advanced topics your children can understand! Benezet’s students explored their world through measurement, estimation, and mental math. Check out my PUFM Series for mental math thinking strategies that build your child’s understanding of number patterns and relationships. ## Grade IV Still there is no formal instruction in arithmetic. By means of foot rules and yard sticks, the children are taught the meaning of inch, foot, and yard. They are given much practise in estimating the lengths of various objects in inches, feet, or yards. Each member of the class, for example, is asked to set down on paper his estimate of the height of a certain child, or the width of a window, or the length of the room, and then these estimates are checked by actual measurement. The children are taught to read the thermometer and are given the significance of 32 degrees, 98.6 degrees, and 212 degrees. They are introduced to the terms “square inch,” “square foot,” and “square yard” as units of surface measure. With toy money [or real coins, if available] they are given some practise in making change, in denominations of 5’s only. All of this work is done mentally. Any problem in making change which cannot be solved without putting figures on paper or on the blackboard is too difficult and is deferred until the children are older. Toward the end of the year the children will have done a great deal of work in estimating areas, distances, etc., and in checking their estimates by subsequent measuring. The terms “half mile,” “quarter mile,” and “mile” are taught and the children are given an idea of how far these different distances are by actual comparisons or distances measured by automobile speedometer. The table of time, involving seconds, minutes, and days, is taught before the end of the year. Relation of pounds and ounces is also taught. — L. P. Benezet The Teaching of Arithmetic II: The Story of an experiment # Cool Fibonacci Conversion Trick photo by Muffet via flickr Maria explains how to use the Fibonacci Numbers to convert distance measurements between miles and kilometers: P.S.: Congratulations to Maria for her Math Mammoth program being featured in the latest edition of Cathy Duffy’s 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum! And Home School Buyer’s Co-op has a sale on Cathy Duffy’s book through the end of July. Get all our new math tips and games: Subscribe in a reader, or get updates by Email. # Sample The Moscow Puzzles Dover Publications is offering a free sample chapter from The Moscow Puzzles. Cat and Mice Purrer has decided to take a nap. He dreams he is encircle by 13 mice: 12 gray and 1 white. He hears his owner saying: “Purrer, you are to eat each thirteenth mouse, keeping the same direction. The last mouse you eat must be the white one.” Download the sample chapter from The Moscow Puzzles. ## More Free Math from Dover Publications Get monthly math tips and activity ideas, and be the first to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions. Sign up for my Tabletop Academy Press Updates email list. # Olympic Logic I love logic puzzles! Nrich Maths offers four fun Olympics Logic puzzles. And be sure to check out the rest of their Nrich Olympics Math as well. Medals Count Given the following clues, can you work out the number of gold, silver and bronze medals that France, Italy and Japan got in this international sports competition? • Japan has 1 more gold medal, but 3 fewer silver medals, than Italy. • France has the most bronze medals (18), but fewest gold medals (7). • Each country has at least 6 medals of each type. • Italy has 27 medals in total. • Italy has 2 more bronze medals than gold medals. • The three countries have 38 bronze medals in total. • France has twice as many silver medals as Italy has gold medals. Go to Nrich Maths and try all four puzzles! Get all our new math tips and games: Subscribe in a reader, or get updates by Email. # Princess in the Dungeon Game Yet more fun from Rosie at Education Unboxed. I found these while looking for videos to use in my PUFM Subtraction post. Rosie says: This is seriously embarrassing and I debated whether to put this video online or not because this is NOT my normal personality, but my girls made up this game and will play it for over an hour and ask for it repeatedly… so I figured someone out there might be able to use it with their kids, too. If you know me, please don’t ever ask me to do this in public. I will refuse. Princess in the Dungeon, Part 1 – Fractions with Cuisenaire Rods # Thinking (and Teaching) like a Mathematician photos by fdecomite via flickr Most people think that mathematics means working with numbers and that being “good at math” means being able to do (only slower) what any$10 calculator can do. But then, most people think all sorts of silly things, right? That’s what makes “man on the street” interviews so funny.

Numbers are definitely part of math — but only part, and not even the biggest part. And being “good at math” means much more than being able to work with numbers. It means making connections, thinking creatively, seeing familiar things in new ways, asking “Why?” and “What if?” and “Are you sure?”

It means trying something and being willing to fail, then going back and trying something else. Even if your first try succeeded — or maybe, especially if your first try succeeded. Just knowing one way to do something is not, for a mathematician, the same as understanding that something. But the more different ways you know to figure it out, the closer you are to understanding it.

Mathematics is not just memorizing and following rules. If we want to teach real mathematics, we teachers need to learn to think like mathematicians. We need to see math as a mental game, playing with ideas. James Tanton explains: