Note to Readers: Please help me improve this list! Add your suggestions or additions in the comment section below…

What does it mean to think like a mathematician? From the very beginning of my education, I can do these things to some degree. And I am always learning to do them better.

(1) I can make sense of problems, and I never give up.

I always think about what a math problem means. I consider how the numbers are related, and I imagine what the answer might look like.

I remember similar problems I’ve done before. Or I make up similar problems with smaller numbers or simpler shapes, to see how they work.

I often use a drawing or sketch to help me think about a problem. Sometimes I even build a physical model of the situation.

I like to compare my approach to the problem with other people and hear how they did it differently.

(2) I can work with numbers and symbols.

I know how numbers relate to each other.

I’m flexible with mental math. I understand arithmetic properties and can use them to make calculations easier.

I’m not intimidated by algebra symbols.

I don’t rely on memorized rules unless I know why they make sense.

(3) I value logical reasoning.

I can recognize assumptions and definitions of math terms.

I argue logically, giving reasons for my statements and justifying my conclusion.

I listen to and understand other people’s explanations.

I ask questions to clarify things I don’t understand.

[Feature photo (above) by Phil Roeder. (CC BY 2.0 via Flickr)]

A frequently-asked question on homeschooling forums is, “Are my children working at grade level? What do they need to know?”

The Council of the Great City Schools has published a handy 6-page pdf summary of third grade math concepts, with suggestions for how parents can support their children’s learning:

Whether you are a radical unschooler or passionately devoted to your textbook — or, like me, somewhere in between — you can help your children toward these grade-level goals by encouraging them to view mathematics as mental play. Don’t think of the standards as a “to do” list, but as your guide to an adventure of exploration. The key to learning math is to see it the mathematician’s way, as a game of playing with ideas.

The following are excerpts from the roadmap document (along with a few extra tips) and links to related posts from the past eight years of playing with math on this blog…

[Feature photo (above) by Loren Kerns. (CC BY 2.0 via Flickr)]

A frequently-asked question on homeschooling forums is, “Are my children working at grade level? What do they need to know?”

The Council of the Great City Schools has published a handy 6-page pdf summary of second grade math concepts, with suggestions for how parents can support their children’s learning:

Whether you are a radical unschooler or passionately devoted to your textbook — or, like me, somewhere in between — you can help your children toward these grade-level goals by encouraging them to view mathematics as mental play. Don’t think of the standards as a “to do” list, but as your guide to an adventure of exploration. The key to learning math is to see it the mathematician’s way, as a game of playing with ideas.

The following are excerpts from the roadmap document (along with a couple of extra tips) and links to related posts from the past eight years of playing with math on this blog…

A frequently-asked question on homeschooling forums is, “Are my children working at grade level? What do they need to know?”

The Council of the Great City Schools has published a handy 6-page pdf summary of first grade math concepts, with suggestions for how parents can support their children’s learning:

Whether you are a radical unschooler or passionately devoted to your textbook — or, like me, somewhere in between — you can help your children toward these grade-level goals by encouraging them to view mathematics as mental play. Don’t think of the standards as a “to do” list, but as your guide to an adventure of exploration. The key to learning math is to see it the mathematician’s way, as a game of playing with ideas.

The following are excerpts from the roadmap document, along with links to related posts from the past eight years of playing with math on this blog…

[Feature photo (above) by MIKI Yoshihito. (CC BY 2.0 via Flickr)]

A frequently-asked question on homeschooling forums is, “Are my children working at grade level? What do they need to know?”

The Council of the Great City Schools has published a handy 6-page pdf summary of kindergarten math concepts, with suggestions for how parents can support their children’s learning:

Whether you are a radical unschooler or passionately devoted to your textbook — or, like me, somewhere in between — you can help your children toward these grade-level goals by encouraging them to view mathematics as mental play. Don’t think of the standards as a “to do” list, but as your guide to an adventure of exploration. The key to learning math is to see it the mathematician’s way, as a game of playing with ideas.

The following are excerpts from the roadmap document, along with links to related posts from the past eight years of playing with math on this blog…

[Feature photo above by Jimmie, and “79” image (right) by Steve Bowbrick via flickr (CC BY 2.0).]

Do you enjoy math? I hope so! If not, browsing this post just may change your mind.

Welcome to the 79th edition of the Math Teachers At Play (MTaP) math education blog carnival — a smorgasbord of links to bloggers all around the internet who have great 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, game, or trivia tidbits. If you would like to jump straight to our featured blog posts, click here to see the Table of Contents.

Since I’ve been spending all my free time working on my upcoming Math You Can Play book series, I’m in the mood for games. So I found a few games featuring prime and nonprime numbers [which category is #79 — do you know?], and I’ll sprinkle some of my best-loved math game books throughout the carnival.

TRY THESE NUMBER GAMES

Students can explore prime and non-prime numbers with two free classroom favorites: The Factor Game (pdf lesson download) or Tax Collector. For $15-20 you can buy a downloadable file of the beautiful, colorful, mathematical board game Prime Climb. Or try the following game by retired Canadian math professor Jerry Ameis:

Math Concepts: multiples, factors, composites, and primes. Players: only two. Equipment: pair of 6-sided dice, 10 squares each of two different colors construction paper, and the game board (click the image to print it, or copy by hand).

On your turn, roll the dice and make a 2-digit number. Use one of your colored squares to mark a position on the game board. You can only mark one square per turn.

If your 2-digit number is prime, cover a PRIME square.

If any of the numbers showing are factors of your 2-digit number, cover one of them.

BUT if there’s no square available that matches your number, you lose your turn.

The first player to get three squares in a row (horizontal/vertical/diagonal) wins. Or for a harder challenge, try for four in a row.

And now, on to the main attraction: the blog posts. Many articles were submitted by their authors; others were drawn from the immense backlog in my rss reader. If you’d like to skip directly to your area of interest, click one of these links.

Welcome to the 76th edition of the Math Teachers At Play math education blog carnival — a smorgasbord of links to bloggers all around the internet who have great ideas for learning, teaching, and playing around with math from preschool to pre-college.

By tradition, we start the carnival with a puzzle in honor of our 76th edition. But if you would like to jump straight to our featured blog posts, click here to see the Table of Contents.

PUZZLE: CRYSTAL BALL CONNECTION PATTERNS

In the land of Fantasia, where people communicate by crystal ball, Wizard Mathys has been placed in charge of keeping the crystal connections clean and clear. He decides to figure out how many different ways people might talk to each other, assuming there’s no such thing as a crystal conference call.

Mathys sketches a diagram of four Fantasian friends and their crystal balls. At the top, you can see all the possible connections, but no one is talking to anyone else because it’s naptime. Fantasians take their siesta very seriously. That’s one possible state of the 4-crystal system.

On the second line of the diagram, Joe (in the middle) wakes up from siesta and calls each of his friends in turn. Then the friends take turns calling each other, bringing the total number of possible connection-states up to seven.

Finally, Wizard Mathys imagines what would happen if one friend calls Joe at the same time as the other two are talking to each other. That’s the last line of the diagram: three more possible states. Therefore, the total number of conceivable communication configurations for a 4-crystal system is 10.

For some reason Mathys can’t figure out, mathematicians call the numbers that describe the connection pattern states in his crystal ball communication system Telephone numbers.

Can you help Wizard Mathys figure out the Telephone numbers for different numbers of people?
T(0) = ?
T(1) = ?
T(2) = ?
T(3) = ?
T(4) = 10 connection patterns (as above)
T(5) = ?
T(6) = ?
and so on.

Hint: Don’t forget to count the state of the system when no one is on the phone crystal ball.

And now, on to the main attraction: the blog posts. Many articles were submitted by their authors; I’ve drawn others from the immense backlog in my rss reader. If you’d like to skip directly to your area of interest, here’s a quick Table of Contents:

Update: The crowdfunding campaign is now closed and the book is in the final stages. It should be headed to the printer soon. Check the Playing With Math homepage for publication and ordering information.

What do mathematicians do? We play with math. What are little kids doing when they’re thinking about numbers, shapes, and patterns? They’re playing with math. You may not believe it yet, but you can have fun playing with math, too.

— Sue VanHattum, editor

We had a discussion at the end of the club on how we are all confused now, but pleasantly so, and how important it is to rejoice in confusion and to be comfortable with it. Adults often strive very hard to get rid of any and all possible traces of confusion for kids, making things dreadfully boring.

— Maria Droujkova, after a math circle exploration of infinity

All it talkes to do mathematics is opportunity, a frustrating problem, and a bit of stubbornness.

— Ellen Kaplan, math circle leader

Our own school experiences can make it hard for us to teach without being tempted to “help them master” a concept that they may or may not be ready to master. What we never learned in school was the concept of playing around with math, allowing ideas to “percolate,” so to speak, before mastery occurs, and that process may take time.

It turns out that the people who do well in math are those who make connections and see math as a connected subject. The people who don’t do well are people who see math as a lot of isolated methods.

If you or your children struggle with math, Boaler’s non-profit YouCubed.org may help you recover your joy in learning.

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.

Update: The crowdfunding campaign is now closed and the book is in the final stages. It should be headed to the printer soon. Check the Playing With Math homepage for publication and ordering information.

There’s a problem: Most people don’t like math. Why is that? Perhaps it has something to do with the way math is taught in school. As a teacher to my own kids and mentor to homeschooling parents, I’ve been fighting math anxiety for decades.

This book is one part of the solution.

Playing With Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and Passionate Teachers features more than thirty authors who tell delightful stories of learning to appreciate math and of sharing their enthusiasm with their communities, families, or students. After every chapter is a puzzle, game, or activity to get you and your kids playing with math, too.

You can read a couple of excerpts at PlayingWithMath.org:

Whether you love math and want to share it with your kids, or whether you fear and loathe math and need help getting over that hurdle so you won’t pass your fear on, Playing With Math will encourage you to see math more deeply and play with it more freely.

I’ve been waiting for this book for years, and I’m thrilled to see it finally come together. As I read the advance copy (review coming soon!), I am amazed at how many different ways there are to think about math. Each writer has a new perspective and unique insight, and my quotes journal is filling up with inspiration.

A Word from the Editor

The idea of crowd-funding may be new to you. Here’s how it works:

Today is the first day of our crowd-funding campaign. For a contribution of $25, we’ll send you a book as soon as it’s printed.

You can contribute anything from $1 to $5000 (with rewards at each contribution level) to help us pay for our illustrators, editors, page layout person, and printing. This is our way of asking for community support for this book as part of the production process. We hope to build lots of energy around the ideas in the book through this campaign.

Besides contributing, here’s another way you can help: Think of five friends who would enjoy this book.

Do you have friends who get frustrated helping their kids with math homework?

Or who teach young kids but don’t feel comfortable with math themselves?

Do you have friends who enjoy math?

Or who want ideas to share with the kids in their lives?

Do you know someone who might want to start a math circle?

Would you send them a quick message, to let them know we’re here?

I’m hoping for the power of exponential growth with this. Our outrageous goal is to change the way people all over this country, and maybe even the world, think about math. If you each send this to five friends who might enjoy the book, and each of them sends it to five friends, and each of them … Well, pretty soon we cover the world, right?

In fact, if we kept it going through eleven steps, that would make 5 to the 11th power, or over 40 million people. Does Sue dream big? Yep.

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.

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?

Cast

1-3 narrators
7 friends (non-speaking parts, adjust to fit your group)

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.

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.

The school experience makes a tremendous difference in a child’s learning. Which of the following students would you rather be?

I continued to do arithmetic with my father, passing proudly through fractions to decimals. I eventually arrived at the point where so many cows ate so much grass, and tanks filled with water in so many hours. I found it quite enthralling.

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.

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!

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.

Math holiday alert: March 14th is Pi Day. And why limit ourselves to a single day? As Tyler Jarvis pointed out, March 2014 (3/14) is Pi Month! Here are some ideas to help you celebrate…

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.

Seven years ago, I blogged a revision of the first article I ever wrote about homeschooling math. I can’t even remember when the original article was published — years before the original (out of print) editions of my math books.

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

I love story problems. Like a detective, I enjoy sifting out clues and solving the mystery. But what do you do when you come across a real stumper? Acting out story problems could make a one-page assignment take all week.

You don’t have to bake a pie to study fractions or jump off a cliff to learn gravity. Use your imagination instead. The following suggestions will help you find the clues you need to solve the case…

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.

Do you like Pinterest? I’ve enjoyed exploring the site lately, so I set up a few boards where I can pin the goodies I find. It may take awhile before I get all the old games and posts from this blog loaded up, so save the links and come back often…

Playful Math Games & Activities

As our children (and their parents!) play around with mathematical ideas and the relationships between them, we develop deep understanding that is strong enough to support future learning. Playful math links include math games, activities, and interesting lesson plans.

Making abstract math visual: Math doodles let us see and experiment with a wide range of mathematical structures — and even to feel them, if we include hands-on 3D doodles in clay or other media. Links include art projects, geometry constructions, and physical models to explore.

A variety of math teaching ideas for homeschool families or classroom teachers. Learning mathematics is more than just answer-getting: help your students make conceptual connections. These links are more “schooly” than on the other boards, and they include conceptual lessons that build your own understanding of mathematics as well as that of your students. And math notebooking resources, too.

Since early 2009, the Math Teachers at Play (MTaP) blog carnival has offered tips, tidbits, games, and activities for students and teachers of preschool through pre-college mathematics. Now published once a month, the carnival welcomes entries from parents, students, teachers, homeschoolers, and just plain folks. If you like to learn new things and play around with ideas, you are sure to find something of interest.

And that’s the end of my Pinterest boards (so far).

What are some of your favorite Pinterest sites? Please share a link in the comments!

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.

Do you enjoy math? I hope so! If not, browsing this post just may change your mind.

Welcome to the 70th edition of the Math Teachers At Play math education blog carnival — a smorgasbord of 42+ links to bloggers all around the internet who have great 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 70th edition. But if you would like to jump straight to our featured blog posts, click here to see the Table of Contents.

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.

Homeschooling parents know that one of the biggest challenges for any middle-elementary math student is to master the multiplication facts. It can seem like an unending task to memorize so many facts and be able to pull them out of mental storage in any order on demand.

Too often, we are tempted to stress the rote aspect of such memory work, which makes our children lose their focus on what multiplication really means. Before practicing the times table facts, make sure your student gets plenty of practice recognizing and using the common models for multiplication.

You may want to pick up this poster and use it for ideas as you play the Tell Me a (Math) Story game. Word problems are important for children learning any new topic in math, because they give children a mental “hook” on which to hang the abstract number concepts.

And for extra practice, you can play my free card game…

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.

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.

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.

Player #1

(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.

Player #2

(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?

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.

Feature photo (above) by L. Marie. Math comic by davidd. Both via flickr (CC BY 2.0).

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.

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.

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!

Puzzle 1

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.

Once again, the authors of Moebius Noodles are teaming up to offer a free course for families, math clubs, playgroups, and others who want to explore adventurous mathematics with kids of any age.

This short course will last only two weeks, and the topic is multiplication:

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.

Here is yet another wonderful summer math opportunity for homeschoolers or anyone who works with kids: a free, 3-week mini-course on math problem solving for all ages.

The course is being organized by Dr. James Tanton, Dr. Maria Droujkova, and Yelena McManaman. The course participants include families, math clubs, playgroups, and other small circles casually exploring adventurous mathematics with kids of any age.

Would you like to join us? Check out the mpsMOOC13 home page for instructions. The deadline for joining is July 7 July 3.

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.