Teddy Bear Hospital

Math Storytelling Day: The Hospital Floor

[Feature photo above by Christiaan Triebert via flickr (CC BY 2.0).]

Have you ever heard of Math Storytelling Day? On September 25, people around the world celebrate mathematics by telling stories together. The stories can be real — like my story below — or fictional like the tale of Wizard Mathys from Fantasia and his crystal ball communication system.

Check out these posts for more information:

My Math Story

tiles2

My story begins with an unexpected adventure in pain. Appendicitis sidewhacked my life last week, but that’s not the story. It’s just the setting. During my recovery, I spent a lot of time in the smaller room of my hospital suite. I noticed this semi-random pattern in the floor tile, which made me wonder:

  • Did they choose the pattern to keep their customers from getting bored while they were … occupied?
  • Is the randomness real? Or can I find a line of symmetry or a set of tiles that repeat?
  • If I take pictures from enough different angles, could I transfer the whole floor to graph paper for further study?
  • And if the nurse finds me doing this, will she send me to a different ward of the hospital? Do hospitals have psychiatric wards, or is that only in the movies?
  • What is the biggest chunk of squares I could “break out” from this pattern that would create the illusion of a regular, repeating tessellation?

I gave up on the graph paper idea (for now) and printed the pictures to play with. By my definition, “broken” pattern chunks need to be contiguous along the sides of the tiles, like pentominoes. Also, the edge of the chunk must be a clean break along the mortar lines. The piece can zigzag all over the place, but it isn’t allowed to come back and touch itself anywhere, even at a corner. No holes allowed.

I’m counting the plain squares as the unit and each of the smaller rectangles as a half square. So far, the biggest chunk of repeating tiles I’ve managed to break out is 283 squares.

tiles1

What Math Stories Will You Tell?

Have you and your children created any mathematical stories this year? I’d love to hear them! Please share your links in the comments section below.


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Let’s Play Math on Scribd

letsplaymathcover-mini

Do you subscribe to the Scribd subscription reading service? My Let’s Play Math ebook is now available to Scribd subscribers:

Reviews of Let’s Play Math

Combined with all the linked resources, this book is going to transform how I teach my kids maths. No more dabbling in “real maths” but then running back to the workbooks when anxiety strikes — with this approach I can teach my kids to think like mathematicians without worrying about leaving gaps.

My favourite section of the book is “One Week of Real Mathematics”, which contains examples of what one week’s worth of math playtime might look like. I love having this starting point to show me what a balanced “maths diet” might look like.

I knew the well-travelled road (maths curricula) wasn’t for us, but I lacked confidence in my ability to guide my children through uncharted territory. Let’s Play Math is the map and the guidebook I’ve been looking for. With it in my hand I can’t wait to take my children by the hand and head off to explore the wonderful world of maths.

— Lucinda Leo
Navigating By Joy

A beautiful book that explains the “why” and “how” of teaching math from a Constructivist perspective. It is well researched, well annotated, and includes loads of activities that you can try with kids K-12 at home. While reading the book, I found myself remembering a lot of things I had forgotten from my teacher-training … I have to say that there were so many parts of this book that I highlighted that I really gave my Kindle a workout!

There is a whole section that I’m going to come back to this summer, to keep my kids busy. But was especially useful to me at this moment, were the talking points for helping kids solve problems on their own. Yes, I at one point learned all of talking points, but I really needed the refresher.

My son’s school does Continental Mathematics League, and those problems are really hard. I’m going to print up all of the talking points and post them in our kitchen so that my husband and I will have a list of questions to prompt our son’s thinking.

— Jennifer Bardsley
Teaching My Baby To Read


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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving at the Trolls

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say this —
those He redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those He gathered from the lands,
frome east and west, from north and south.

Whoever is wise, let him heed these things
and consider the great love of the Lord.

— Psalm 107:1-3 and 43

[Feature photo above by Martha_chapa95 (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr. Quotation from Holy Bible, New International Version, (c)1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.]



Monday Morning Surprise

2013-09-16 number1 in teaching math, closeup

This is a good way to start the week. Amazon rankings are like a roller-coaster ride, so this won’t last for long — but I’ll enjoy it while I can. :)

If you’re curious about my book, here is the introduction and first chapter, free to download:


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lets play math sample pages

Sample Chapter from Let’s Play Math Book

As I’ve been working on the layout for the paperback edition of Let’s Play Math: How Homeschooling Families Can Learn Math Together, and Enjoy It!, I thought, “Why not post an excerpt?” So here is the introduction and first chapter, free to download:

This excerpt isn’t exactly how the paperback will look, because it’s based on the current ebook edition. For the paperback, I’ll be adding plenty of new illustrations — not quite a picture on every page, but close. (Yes, that’s one reason it’s taking soooo long to finish!)

For Example …

Here is one of the new illustrations, along with its caption:

Fractals are self-similar, which means that subsections of the object look like smaller versions of the whole thing. Your children may enjoy making a Sierpinski triangle with tortilla chips.

Sierpinski-tortillas

Want To Buy the Book?

Let’s Play Math should be available wherever you usually buy ebooks. Here are links to the major U.S. sites:


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letsplaymathcover-small

Back to School Sale

Princess Kitten, way back in the beginning.

Princess Kitten, way back in the beginning.

Our homeschool runs a bit off-schedule from the rest of the U.S. school system, as we are still finishing up last year’s work. Even so, we’re calling this month the “beginning” of Kitten’s high school years, which seems to me like something to celebrate.

Therefore, I’m launching a one-week sale on my math book:

Please feel free to share the coupon code with your friends.

Update: I’ve just opened up a Ganxy showcase with the sale price, for anyone who would prefer to buy the ebook (in pdf, mobi, and epub) directly from me:

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My Ebook: Kindle & Smashwords Updates Available

letsplaymathcover-mini

If you bought an early edition of my ebook Let’s Play Math, you can now update your copy to the latest version.

This update includes:

How To Update

If you bought at Smashwords, the latest update is always available for download at their site.

If you are an Amazon.com customer, you can get the updated version of this book by going to Manage Your Kindle. Find the book in your Kindle Library, click on the “Update Available” link next to the book’s title, and then follow the update prompts. After you do this, all of your Kindle devices that have the ebook currently downloaded will be updated automatically the next time they connect to wireless. If you tucked the book away in a folder, the update will replace it there, rather than cluttering up your home screen.

Also Available

Through the Smashwords distribution program, my ebook is finally spreading to other online booksellers:


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Let’s Play Math Now in All Digital Formats

letsplaymathcover-mini-mini

For all of you who read ebooks in formats other than Amazon’s Kindle, my book is now available on Smashwords in almost every format imaginable:

Since Smashwords distributes to various online booksellers, this means it may show up at Barnes & Noble and the iBookstore sometime soon. I have no control over who decides to carry the book, but if you happen to see a copy for sale anywhere, I’d love to hear about it!

Advantages of using Smashwords: In addition to all the different format choices, Smashwords also gives you access to free updates whenever I change the file. (I have found a few typos I need to correct one of these days…) Also, the free sample is slightly longer than the one at Amazon.

Disadvantages: You have to load the file onto your ebook reader manually (try the free program Calibre). Also, some of the file formats are wonky, because Smashwords insists on using its automatic “meatgrinder” program — for instance, the html format didn’t handle exponents correctly, the mobi file had a couple of bad links in the table of contents, and the epub included every single answer-to-sample-problem in its ncx toc. If you’re reading on a Kindle, the hand-formatted Amazon file is much nicer.

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Review: The Mathematics of Free Books

Books by somegeekintn[Photo by Casey Fleser.]

When I first heard about Swagbucks, I figured there had to be a catch. How could they give away real money just for using their search engine? But over the past four years, I’ve collected nearly $600 worth of freebies, mostly for doing internet searches I would have done anyway.

I trade in my Swagbucks for Amazon.com gift certificates, with which I’ve bought Christmas gifts, printer ink, groceries, and (splurging on myself!) several math books, including Paul Lockhart’s new Measurement.

Would you like to earn free books, too? Check it out:

  • Swagbucks Search & Win
    [To get a quick 50 Swagbucks, enter the code “SPRINGIN2SWAG” (for April 2013) when you sign up.]

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Book Updates

letsplaymathcover-mini

My ebook Let’s Play Math has a new cover. Do you like it?

After wrestling with the files for a couple of months, I finally figured out how to add the toc.ncx navigation (the ebook magic that lets you skip ahead to the next chapter). While I was messing around, I added a few more references, expanded a couple of sections, and fixed all the typos that we’ve found so far.

I sent Amazon an email asking them to give everyone who already bought a copy the option to get the latest version. Unfortunately that’s not automatic, but if the powers that be decide that these changes were “major,” you should get an email telling you how to update.

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Let’s Play Math Book Update

I love math, but had forgotten why I developed a love for math in the first place. This book made me realize how experiences in my childhood lit a spark in me … Denise Gaskins shows us how we can ignite this fire in our own children.

I believe her suggestions are invaluable for homeschoolers, but essential for the many parents whose children are learning to dislike math in school.

— Carrie
Review at Amazon.com, December 1, 2012

If you’ve wavered on whether to pick up my math book, be warned: This is the last month for the introductory sale price. In January, the price will go up to $5.99 — which is still much less than what the original edition sells for, used.

Of course, if you’re a member of Amazon Prime, you can borrow the book (or my daughter’s novel) for free!

You don’t need a Kindle to read an Amazon.com ebook. You can access it on your computer, tablet, or smart phone using Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader or a Kindle Reading App.

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Poll: Math Ebooks?

Two of my daughters are attempting NaNoWriMo this year. So I’m thinking I might keep them company and give the EBookWriMo Challenge a try. What topic should I write about?

Don’t like any of my ideas? Enter your suggestion in the poll, or leave a comment below!


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Reviews for my Daughter’s Book

I cleaned up the clutter on my other blog, and so I decided to make a page about my daughter’s book, which meant taking the time to pull out excerpts from her reviews. And since I hadn’t posted anything about her on this blog for a couple of months, I thought I’d brag a bit to you all, too.

Reviews of Banished

Banished is a captivating fantasy story with a well-thought-out plot that would be a credit to any writer. But it is especially remarkable coming from a thirteen-year-old student who has been homeschooled all her life.

Teresa Gaskins actually wrote this book as a project for the National Novel Writing Month program. One noteworthy thing about the book is that there is no sexuality or bad language (the euphemistic interjection “Blasted” is used once), so, other than those who object to the presence of any kind of magic in books, parents can let their kids read the novel with no reservations.

However, be forewarned. When you reach the final page and find the words, “Not the End…,” you will cry, “Oh! No!” The story does not resolve itself at the end and then pick up in a sequel. Rather, the plot is left hanging at the end and will continue in another book. I for one feel as if I simply can’t wait to read the next installment to find out what happens to Chris and his friends. It’s that good!

— Wayne at Home School Book Review

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Blog Parties for Teachers

Blog carnivals can be a wonderful source of inspiration and information. The Blog Parties for Teachers widget in my sidebar offers an wide assortment of recent carnivals on math and homeschooling.

The widget disappeared over the summer, as some carnivals (like the Homeschooled Kids Blog Carnival) went on hiatus — and as I just got too busy to maintain the list by hand. But now, with the new school year, I’ve found several new carnivals to explore, so I’ll try my best to keep the list up-to-date.

Enjoy!

P.S.: If you host an blog carnival for teachers or homeschoolers, please email me a link.


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Would Your Student Like to Start a Blog?

by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

“Writing is how we think our way into a subject and make it our own.”

– William Zinsser
Writing to Learn

Since the last recession, our homeschool co-op has been too small to support a blogging class, and I have seriously neglected my Blogging 2 Learn blog. So last week, I decided to refresh everything by starting up a new Blogging 101 Series. If your student has been longing to start a blog, you may want to check it out.


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Introducing the “Let’s Play Math!” Book, Beta Version

This blog originally grew out of my Homeschool Math Manuals series published in the 1990s, and when I typed a post, I often added new tips, activities, or examples. Now the stories are coming full circle: I’ve entered the enriched blog-post versions back into the book manuscript, fixed all the typos I could find, deleted obsolete references, and added a list of my favorite “living” math books and internet links.

But no writer can accurately judge her own work. A professional editor is helpful, but he or she can’t see the book with a real homeschooler’s eye. Most writers look for beta-readers among their friends or acquaintances. As we live in a rural area, my supply of potential victims helpers is limited. So I decided to try an ebook experiment: Use Amazon.com to find readers willing to pay the price of a Caramel Macchiato for a pre-publication beta version of my book.

All of the books in the Math Ebooks Beta Series are designed to supplement your current math program — to help you teach math with ANY curriculum. If you would like to help me improve the books, please grab a notepad and jot down your thoughts as you read:

  • Let’s Play Math:
    How Homeschooling Families Can Learn Math Together, and Enjoy It!

    Discover new ways to explore math as a family adventure, playing with ideas. True mathematical thinking involves the same creative reasoning that children use to solve puzzles. Introduce your children to the “Aha!” factor, the thrill of solving a challenging puzzle, and build thinking skills with toys, games, and library books. Find out how to choose math manipulatives, or make your own, and learn how to tackle story problems with confidence. Let’s Play Math will give you a wealth of motivating, hands-on ideas for teaching home school math.

Edited to Add a Clarification

If you are interested in my book but don’t have time to take notes and send me comments, that’s OK. Feel free to take advantage of the beta price anyway — there’s absolutely no obligation.

I hope you and your children enjoy the adventure of learning math together!


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5 Stars at Home School Book Review

Wayne at Home School Book Review just posted a very kind review of my daughter’s book:

Banished is a captivating fantasy story with a well-thought-out plot that would be a credit to any writer. But it is especially remarkable coming from a thirteen-year-old student who has been homeschooled all her life.

However, be forewarned. When you reach the final page and find the words, “Not the End…,” you will cry, “Oh! No!”

I for one feel as if I simply can’t wait to read the next installment to find out what happens to Chris and his friends. It’s that good!


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New Fantasy Fiction Book by 13yo Homeschooler

My 13-year-old daughter just released her first book on Kindle:

  • Banished (The Riddled Stone, Book One)
    Falsely accused of stealing a magic artifact, Chris is forced to leave home, never to return. As he and three friends travel toward the border, however, they are warned of great danger approaching the land. They set out to solve an ancient riddle — but will they be able to save the kingdom, or will the quest cost them their lives?

[Update 7/6/12: The paperback book is now “In Stock” at Amazon (yay!). They are even including the book in their buy-3-get-1-free promotion for books and home/garden items.]

Teresa (also known as Princess Kitten) has done the NaNoWriMo Youth Program as part of her language studies for the past three years and has written many stories on her blog, but this is the first time we’ve followed through and published one of her books.

Of course I’m biased, but I think she did a pretty good job, as first books go. It’s clearly the beginning of a series, so she sets up more plot threads than she resolves — but I did convince her not to wait for this year’s NaNoWriMo to start Book Two. (I want to find out what happens next!)

Anyway, if you or your kids enjoy fantasy fiction and are interested in reading something written by a teenage homeschooler — and if you have a Kindle or Kindle Reading App — please download the sample chapters of her book and check it out. She would love to get some reviews!


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Book Update, and Self-Publishing Info

photo by Darwin Bell via flickr

As you may know, I’ve been working hard on my Let’s Play Math! books, and I’m still hoping to get at least couple of them out this summer. (Though if I keep thinking of more sections to add, I may never get them done!) I’m also finishing up the editing on my daughter’s novel and plan to release it soon.

One of the most useful resources I’ve found for self-publishing information is Joel Friedlander’s blog, The Book Designer. The last time I published my books, a dozen years ago, I made nearly every one of the mistakes he mentions in Amateur Hour Books and 5 Book Design Mistakes to Avoid.

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Update: My Math Books

photo by goXunuReviews via Flickr

Are you a homeschooler? Are you happy with your current curriculum, or would you like to break out of the textbook mold and explore math through “living” books and activities? Whether you hope to replace your math program or just to supplement it, I can show you ways to turn math into a learning adventure for the whole family. Your children will build a stronger foundation of understanding when you teach math as a game, playing with ideas.

Nearly a year ago, I wrote:

This blog originally grew out of my books, and now it’s coming full circle: New, expanded editions of my long-out-of-print books are ripening on the vine, growing out of the blog. To bring them to harvest, I’m going to need your help.

It has taken much longer than I had hoped to whip the manuscripts into form. My new goal is to publish ebook editions, since I will be able to sell them for about half what the original books cost twelve years ago. I’m hoping that I can finish at least a couple of the ebooks by mid-summer.

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Used Book Price Shock

Someone mentioned one of my old books on the Living Math forum, which made me curious how the used copies were doing at Amazon.com. These are simple little books, 100 loose pages comb-bound together. I have seen ridiculous prices before, but this one takes the cake.

Thankfully, there are a few used book dealers with more sense, or at least with more reasonable computer-automated pricing routines.

I am still at work revising (and greatly expanding) the old books so I can publish new editions. If you haven’t voted yet in my “What Do You Want from a Math Book?” survey, I’d love to hear your opinion!


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“Let’s Play Math!” Blog on Facebook

I’m always a bit behind the times, and I don’t think I’ll ever get around to trying Twitter, but I have finally made a Facebook page. Not much there so far — a new video of one girl’s invented method for 2-digit multiplication, and a list of my games posts — but more will come over the next few weeks. Blog updates will post automatically (in theory), along with non-blog updates like that video. Above all, I’d love to answer questions from readers.

If you’re interested, please drop in for a visit.


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Updated Free Math from Dover

If you tried to get any of the Dover samples I linked to last month, and instead you got Dover’s home page, I’m sorry! Apparently the sampler links aren’t stable. :( I’ve corrected most of them and deleted those I couldn’t correct, so everything works as of tonight:

I found permanent links for several of the books, but a few of them are still sampler links — especially the children’s books — and those will probably go AWOL as the others did. So if you were planning to download one of the sample pages, be advised to do it soon.


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Still Time to Enter

You still have a few days to enter my giveaway contest for Keith Devlin’s new e-book, Leonardo and Steve: The Young Genius Who Beat Apple to Market by 800 Years, and his latest print book, The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution. The number of entries so far is low enough that you have very good odds of winning!

To join in the fun, just follow the instructions at this post:


Don’t miss any of “Let’s Play Math!”:  Subscribe in a reader, or get updates by Email.


Please Ignore

Way back when I started this blog, I followed all the standard “how to start your blog” recommendations and registered with Technorati. But I never found the site very helpful, and over the years I’ve mostly ignored it. I mean, how can they not even have a category for education blogs?!

So it seems that sometime between 2006 and today, the Technorati computers lost my blog information, and I never noticed the difference. But for whatever it may be worth, I am hereby re-claiming this blog: NKVFADZPZMSX.

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning via Mario Vittone

Off-topic for a math blog, but vitally important:

  • Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

    Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you alright?” If they can answer at all – they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents — children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.

  • It Doesn’t Have to Be Summer

    If something like that seems unlikely to you, then you’d be right. Bucket drownings don’t happen often. But when they do, the parents involved never care how rare the event is for everyone else. Something very similar to the events described above happened just last month in Indiana. There was another bucket drowning reported in Illinois the month before that.

Also worth your time: