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.
This was a fun activity from Moebius Noodles for our PK-1st grade Homeschool Math in the Park group. The children take turns making a maze and setting a dinosaur inside. Then the other dinosaurs (parents or siblings) try to guess whether their friend is on the land or in the water.
(1) First, draw a big circle on the white board. This is your lake.
(2) With a finger or a bit of cloth, erase a small section of the circle to create the opening for your maze.
(3) Starting at one edge of the opening, draw a random squiggle inside the circle. Make your squiggle end at the other edge of the opening.
(4) Set your dinosaur anywhere inside the maze.
(1) Now it’s your turn to guess. Is the dinosaur standing on the land? Is it swimming in the water?
(2) How will you figure out if you guessed right?
(3) Check by jumping across the lines of the maze. Each jump takes you across a boundary: Splash! (Into the water.) Thump! (Back on the land.) Splash! Thump! … Until you reach the dinosaur inside.
(4) Or go to the maze entrance and walk your dinosaur along the path. Can you find your way?
Hooray for September 25th — it’s Math Storytelling Day!
Celebrate Math Storytelling Day by making up and sharing math stories. Everyone loves a story, so this is a great way to motivate your children to play around with math. What might a math story involve? Patterns, logic, history, puzzles, relationships, fictional characters, … and yes, even numbers.
It’s a short book with plenty of great stories, advice, and conversation-starters. While Danielson writes directly to parents, the book will also interest grandparents, aunts & uncles, teachers, and anyone else who wants to help children notice and think about math in daily life.
You don’t need special skills to do this. If you can read with your kids, then you can talk math with them. You can support and encourage their developing mathematical minds.
You don’t need to love math. You don’t need to have been particularly successful in school mathematics. You just need to notice when your children are being curious about math, and you need some ideas for turning that curiosity into a conversation.
In nearly all circumstances, our conversations grow organically out of our everyday activity. We have not scheduled “talking math time” in our household. Instead, we talk about these things when it seems natural to do so, when the things we are doing (reading books, making lunch, riding in the car, etc) bump up against important mathematical ideas.
The dialogues in this book are intended to open your eyes to these opportunities in your own family’s life.
Welcome to the Math Teachers At Play blog carnival — which is not just for math teachers! If you like to learn new things and play around with ideas, you are sure to find something of interest.
By tradition, we start the carnival with a couple of puzzles in honor of our 66th edition.
Let the mathematical fun begin!
Our first puzzle is based on one of my favorite playsheets from the Miquon Math workbook series. Fill each shape with an expression that equals the target number. Can you make some cool, creative math?
Click the image to download the pdf playsheet set: one page has the target number 66, and a second page is blank so you can set your own target number.
Both of my homeschool math circles (one with preschool-1st grade, and one with teens) thoroughly enjoyed the month-long problem solving course this summer, and we expect the new one to be just as much fun. Will you join us?
As with most of the Moebius Noodles courses, Maria and Yelena have adapted the activities for all ages from toddlers to adults. Where young ones go on a scavenger hunt for pretty snowflakes and cool truck wheels, older kids build bridges from multiplication to symmetry, spatial transformations, and proportions.
Visit the registration page to sign up no later than September 8. The main course activities will happen September 9th through 22nd. Expect to spend about two hours a week.
It reminds me of string art designs, but the app makes it easy to vary the pattern and see what happens.
What do your students notice about the patterns?
What questions can they ask?
I liked the way the app uses “minutes” as the unit that describes the star you want the program to draw. That makes it easier (for me, at least) to notice and understand the patterns, since minutes are a more familiar and intuitive unit than degrees, let alone radians.
Here’s an interesting summer learning opportunity for homeschooling parents and classroom teachers alike. Stanford Online is offering a free summer course from math education professor and author Jo Boaler:
During off-times, at a long stoplight or in grocery store line, when the kids are restless and ready to argue for the sake of argument, I invite them to play the numbers game.
“Can you tell me how to get to twelve?”
My five year old begins, “You could take two fives and add a two.”
“Take sixty and divide it into five parts,” my nearly-seven year old says.
“You could do two tens and then take away a five and a three,” my younger son adds.
Eventually we run out of options and they begin naming numbers. It’s a simple game that builds up computational fluency, flexible thinking and number sense. I never say, “Can you tell me the transitive properties of numbers?” However, they are understanding that they can play with numbers.
photo by Mike Baird via flickr
I didn’t learn the rules of baseball by filling out a packet on baseball facts. Nobody held out a flash card where, in isolation, I recited someone else’s definition of the Infield Fly Rule. I didn’t memorize the rules of balls, strikes, and how to get someone out through a catechism of recitation.
Kitten and I have been working through the lessons, and she loves it!
We’re skimming through pre-algebra in our regular lessons, but she has enjoyed playing around with simple algebra since she was in kindergarten. She has a strong track record of thinking her way through math problems, and earlier this year she invented her own method for solving systems of equations with two unknowns. I would guess her background is approximately equal to an above-average algebra 1 student near the end of the first semester.
After few lessons of Tanton’s course, she proved — within the limits of experimental error — that a catenary (the curve formed by a hanging chain) cannot be described by a quadratic equation. Last Friday, she easily solved the following equations:
and (though it took a bit more thought):
We’ve spent less than half an hour a day on the course, as a supplement to our AoPS Pre-Algebra textbook. We watch each video together, pausing occasionally so she can try her hand at an equation before listening to Tanton’s explanation. Then (usually the next day) she reads the lesson and does the exercises on her own. So far, she hasn’t needed the answers in the Companion Guide to Quadratics, but she did use the “Dots on a Circle” activity — and knowing that she has the answers available helps her feel more independent.
Do you enjoy math? I hope so! If not, browsing this post just may change your mind. Welcome to the Math Teachers At Play blog carnival — a smorgasbord of ideas for learning, teaching, and playing around with math from preschool to pre-college.
Let the mathematical fun begin!
By tradition, we start the carnival with a puzzle in honor of our 62nd edition:
How many of each shape does it take to make a rhombicosidodecahedron?
Click for template.
My math club students had fun with a Polyhedra Construction Kit. Here’s how to make your own:
Collect a bunch of empty cereal boxes. Cut the boxes open to make big sheets of cardboard.
Print out the template page (→) and laminate. Cut out each polygon shape, being sure to include the tabs on the sides.
Turn your cardboard brown-side-up and trace around the templates, making several copies of each polygon. I recommend 20 each of the pentagon and hexagon, 40 each of the triangle and square.
Draw the dark outline of each polygon with a ballpoint pen, pressing hard to score the cardboard so the tabs will bend easily.
Cut out the shapes, being careful around the tabs.
Use small rubber bands to connect the tabs. Each rubber band will hold two tabs together, forming one edge of a polyhedron.
So, for instance, it takes six squares and twelve rubber bands to make a cube. How many different polyhedra (plural of polyhedron) will you make?
Can you build a rhombicosidodecahedron?
And now, on to the main attraction: the 62 blog posts. Many of the following articles were submitted by their authors; others were drawn from the immense backlog in my blog reader. If you’d like to skip directly to your area of interest, here’s a quick Table of Contents:
Most homeschoolers feel at least a small tinge of panic as their students approach high school. “What have we gotten ourselves into?” we wonder. “Can we really do this?” Here are a few tips to make the transition easier.
Before you move forward, it may help to take a look back. How has homeschooling worked for you and your children so far?
If your students hate math, they probably never got a good taste of the “Aha!” factor, that Eureka! thrill of solving a challenging puzzle. The early teen years may be your last chance to convince them that math can be fun, so consider putting aside your textbooks for a few months to:
Homeschoolers, after-schoolers, unschoolers, or anyone else: if you’re a parent with kids at home, you need this book. If you work with children in any way (grandparent, aunt/uncle, teacher, child care, baby sitter, etc.) you need this book. Or if you hated math in school and never understood how anyone could enjoy it, you need this book!
Moebius Noodles is a travel guide to the Math Universe for adventurous families (and it has lots of beautiful pictures, too!) featuring games and activities that draw out the rich, mathematical properties of everyday objects in ways accessible to parents and children:
A snowflake is an example of a fractal and an invitation to explore symmetry.
Cookies offer combinatorics and calculus games.
Paint chips come in beautiful gradients, and floor tiles form tessellations.
After teaching co-op math classes for several years, I’ve become known as the local math maven. Upon meeting one of my children, fellow homeschoolers often say, “Oh, you’re Denise’s son/daughter? You must be really good at math.”
The kids do their best to smile politely — and not to roll their eyes until the other person has turned away.
I hear similar comments after teaching a math workshop: “Wow, your kids must love math!” But my children are individuals, each with his or her own interests. A couple of them enjoy an occasional geometry or logic puzzle, but they never voluntarily sit down to slog through a math workbook page.
In fact, one daughter expressed the depth of her youthful perfectionist angst by scribbling all over the cover of her Miquon math workbook:
“I hate math! Hate, hate, hate-hate-HATE MATH!!!”
Translation: “If I can’t do it flawlessly the first time, then I don’t want to do it at all.”
Check out my newest home decor item, a hundred chart. The amount of work I put into it, I consider getting it framed to be proudly displayed in the living room. The thing is monumental in several ways:
1. It is monumentally different from my usual approach to choosing math aids. My rule is if it takes me more than 5 minutes to prepare a math manipulative, I skip it and find another way.
2. It is monumentally time-consuming to create from scratch all by yourself.
It began with a humble list of seven things in the first (now out of print) edition of my book about teaching home school math. Over the years I added new ideas, and online friends contributed, too, so the list grew to become one of the most popular posts on my blog:
It’s time to register for World Maths Day, which will take place on March 6, 2013. Last year, more than five million students from all around the world combined to correctly answer nearly 500 million math problems.
Would you like to help break the record this year? Register now so you can practice in advance!
About World Maths Day
Play with students from schools all around the world. Individuals and homeschoolers are welcome, too.
The competition is designed for ages 4-18 and all ability levels. Teachers, parents and media can also register and play.
It’s simple to register and participate. Start practicing as soon as you register.
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.
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.
Tell Me a (Math) Story
What better way could there be to do math than snuggled up on a couch with your little one, or side by side at the sink while your middle-school student helps you wash the dishes, or passing the time on a car ride into town?
Homeschooling with Math Anxiety Series
Our childhood struggles with schoolwork gave most of us a warped view of mathematics. Yet even parents who suffer from math anxiety can learn to enjoy math with their children.
How to Conquer the Times Table
Challenge your student to a joint experiment in mental math. Over the next two months, without flashcards or memory drill, how many math facts can the two of you learn together? We will use the world’s oldest interactive game — conversation — to explore multiplication patterns while memorizing as little as possible.
It’s important to teach our children to ask questions, about math and about life. As I wrote in my series about homeschooling with math anxiety, “School textbooks only ask questions for which they know the answer. When homeschoolers learn to think like mathematicians, we will ask a different type of question.”
Multiplication is taught and explained using three models. Again, it is important for understanding that students see all three models early and often, and learn to use them when solving word problems.
I hope you are playing the Tell Me a (Math) Story game often, making up word problems for your children and encouraging them to make up some for you. As you play, don’t fall into a rut: Keep the multiplication models from our lesson in mind and use them all. For even greater variety, use the Multiplication Models at NaturalMath.com (or buy the poster) to create your word problems.
Imagine that you wanted your children to learn the names of all their cousins, aunts and uncles. But you never actually let them meet or play with them. You just showed them pictures of them, and told them to memorize their names.
Each day you’d have them recite the names, over and over again. You’d say, “OK, this is a picture of your great-aunt Beatrice. Her husband was your great-uncle Earnie. They had three children, your uncles Harpo, Zeppo, and Gummo. Harpo married your aunt Leonie … yadda, yadda, yadda.
Mathematicians love to play with ideas. They experiment with puzzles. They tinker with the connections between shapes and numbers, patterns and logic, growth and change. To a mathematician, the fun of the game is in experimenting, in trying new things and discovering what will happen. Many modern strategy games were invented primarily for the fun puzzle of analyzing who would win.
Wise mathematicians are never satisfied with merely finding the answer to a problem. If they decide to put effort into solving a math puzzle, then they are determined to milk every drop of knowledge they can get from that problem. When mathematicians find an answer, they always go back and think about the problem again.
Is there another way to look at it?
Can we make our solution simpler or more elegant?
Does this problem relate to any other mathematical idea?
Can we expand our solution and find a general principle?
Our childhood struggles with schoolwork gave most of us a warped view of mathematics. We learned to manipulate numbers and symbols according to what seemed like arbitrary rules. We may have understood a bit here and a bit there, but we never saw how the framework fit together. We stumbled from one class to the next, packing more and more information into our strained memory, until the whole structure threatened to collapse. Finally we crashed in a blaze of confusion, some of us in high school algebra, others in college calculus.
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!
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.