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Quotable: Math Connections

ConnectedGearsJoBoaler

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.

— Jo Boaler
Math Connections

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


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old warrior dragon

Reblog: Solving Complex Story Problems

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

Dealing with Dragons

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:


Solving-Complex-Story-Problems

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 …

[Click here to go read Solving Complex Story Problems.]



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Pinterest boards

Playing with Pinterest: New Math Boards

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

Middle-High School

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.

Math Doodling

Math Doodling

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.

Math Teaching Tips & Resources

Math Teaching Tips

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.

MTaP Math Education Blog Carnival Archive

MTaP archive

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.

Math-Ed Quotes

Math-Ed Quotes

Inspiration for homeschooling parents and classroom teachers. This is where I’m posting my Wednesday Wisdom quotes.

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!


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Ohio Jones 2

The Linear Inequality Adventures of Ohio Jones

Ohio Jones 1

Last week, Kitten and I reached her textbook’s chapter on graphing linear equations, and a minor mistake with negative numbers threw her into an “I can’t do it!” funk. It’s not easy teaching a perfectionist kid.

Usually her mood improves if we switch to a slightly more advanced topic, and luckily I had saved these worksheets on my desktop, waiting for just such an opportunity. Today’s lesson:

  • Some fun(ish) worksheets
    “For tomorrow, students will be graphing systems of inequalities, so I decided to create a little Ohio Jones adventure (Indiana’s lesser known brother)…”

I offered to give her a hint, but she wanted to try it totally on her own. It took her about 40 minutes to work through the first few rooms of the Lost Templo de los Dulces and explain her solutions to me. I’m sure she’ll speed up with experience.

So far, she’s enjoying it much more than the textbook lesson. It’s fascinating to me how the mere hint of fantasy adventure can change graphing equations from boring to cool. Thanks, Dan!


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2014

2014 Mathematics Game

2014-Calendar

[Feature photo above by Artis Rams (CC BY 2.0) via flickr. Title background (right) by Dan Moyle (CC BY 2.0) via flickr]

Have you made a New Year’s resolution to spend more time with your family this year, and to get more exercise? Problem-solvers of all ages can pump up their (mental) muscles with the Annual Mathematics Year Game Extravaganza!

For many years mathematicians, scientists, engineers and others interested in mathematics have played “year games” via e-mail and in newsgroups. We don’t always know whether it is possible to write expressions for all the numbers from 1 to 100 using only the digits in the current year, but it is fun to try to see how many you can find.

Math Forum Year Game Site

Rules of the Game

Use the digits in the year 2014 to write mathematical expressions for the counting numbers 1 through 100. The goal is adjustable by age: Young children can start with looking for 1-10, or 1-25.

  • You must use all four digits. You may not use any other numbers.
  • Solutions that keep the year digits in 2-0-1-4 order are preferred, but not required.
  • You may use +, -, x, ÷, sqrt (square root), ^ (raise to a power), ! (factorial), and parentheses, brackets, or other grouping symbols.
  • You may use a decimal point to create numbers such as .2, .02, etc., but you cannot write 0.02 because we only have one zero in this year’s number.
  • You may use the overhead-bar (vinculum), dots, or brackets to mark a repeating decimal.
  • You may create multi-digit numbers such as 10 or 201 or .01, but we prefer solutions that avoid them.
  • You may use a double factorial, but we prefer solutions that avoid them. n!! = the product of all integers from 1 to n that have the same parity (odd or even) as n.

[Note to students and teachers: If you want to take part in the Math Forum Year Game, be warned that they do not allow repeating decimals.]

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Things To Do with a Hundred Chart #30

100chartpuzzle

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?
[Suggested by David Radcliffe.]

Share Your Ideas

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

100chart puzzle

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.
[Created by Stuart Kay. Free registration required to download pdf printable.]

Share Your Ideas

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.


Get all our new math tips and games:  Subscribe in a reader, or get updates by Email.


decimal-arrows

Parents, Teachers: Learn about Teaching Decimals

Many children are confused by decimals. They are convinced 0.48 > 0.6 because 48 is obviously ever so much bigger than 6. Their intuition tells them 0.2 × 0.3 = 0.6 has the clear ring of truth. And they confidently assert that, if you want to multiply a decimal number by 10, all you have to do is add a zero at the end.

What can we do to help our kids understand decimals?

Christopher Danielson (author of Talking Math with Your Kids) will be hosting the Triangleman Decimal Institute, a free, in-depth, online chat for “everyone involved in children’s learning of decimals.” The Institute starts tomorrow, September 30 (sorry for the short notice!), but you can join in the discussion at any time:

Past discussions stay open, so feel free to jump into the course whenever you can. Here is the schedule of “classes”:

Click here to see the TDI topic list →

Rectangle algebra

Puzzle: Algebra on Rectangles

Gordon Hamilton of Math Pickle recently posted these videos on how to make algebra 1 puzzles on rectangles. As I was watching, Kitten came in and looked over my shoulder. She said, “Those look like fun!”

They look like fun to me, too, and I bet your beginning algebra students will enjoy them:

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RIMG0186 Satellite dish

How To Master Quadratic Equations

G'Day Math logo

feature photo above by Junya Ogura via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A couple of weeks ago, James Tanton launched a wonderful resource: a free online course devoted to quadratic equations. (And he promises more topics to come.)

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:

\left ( x+4 \right )^2 -1=80

and:

w^2 + 90 = 22 w - 31

and (though it took a bit more thought):

4x^2 + 4x + 4 = 172

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.

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homeschool success feature image

How to Recognize a Successful Homeschool Math Program

photo by danielrmccarthy

photo by Dan McCarthy (cc-by)

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.”

photo by Jason Bolonski (cc-by)

photo by Jason Bolonski (cc-by)

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NY 2013

2013 Mathematics Game

feature photo above by Alan Klim via flickr

New Year’s Day

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.

Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time.

However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.

— Mark Twain
Letter to Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, Jan. 1863

For many homeschoolers, January is the time to assess our progress and make a few New Semester’s Resolutions. This year, we resolve to challenge ourselves to more math puzzles. Would you like to join us? Pump up your mental muscles with the 2013 Mathematics Game!

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Who Killed Professor X?

What a Fun Book!

professorX

Who Killed Professor X? is a work of fiction based on actual incidents, and its heroes are real people who left their mark on the history of mathematics. The murder takes place in Paris in 1900, and the suspects are the greatest mathematicians of all time. Each suspect’s statement to the police leads to a mathematical problem, the solution of which requires some knowledge of secondary-school mathematics. But you don’t have to solve the puzzles in order to enjoy the book.

Fourteen pages of endnote biographies explain which parts of the mystery are true, which details are fictional, and which are both (true incidents slightly modified for the sake of the story).

I ordered Who Killed Professor X? from The Book Depository (free shipping worldwide!), and it only took 5 days to arrive here in the middle of the Midwest. My daughter Kitten, voracious as always, devoured it in one sitting — and even though she hasn’t studied high school geometry yet, she was able to work a couple of the problems.


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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

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Multiplication Challenge

Can you explain why the multiplication method in the following video works? How about your upper-elementary or middle school students — can they explain it to you?

Pause the video at 4:30, before he gives the interpretation himself. After you have decided how you would explain it, hit “play” and listen to his explanation.

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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:

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Purple Comet! Math Meet

The 2012 Purple Comet! Math Meet is a free, on-line, team competition for middle and high school students around the world. Every team needs an adult supervisor. Homeschoolers are welcome and should register under the Mixed Team category.

Register now. The contest will run Tuesday, April 17, through Thursday, April 26, 2012. That gives your team plenty of time for practice sessions between now and then.


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Math Mammoth Sale @ HSBC

March is Math Mammoth Month at The Homeschool Buyers Co-op. HSBC is offering a group buy on Math Mammoth packages, at savings up to 50% off.You can choose from the following Series Packages:

  • Blue: Grades 1 – 6
  • Light Blue: Grades 1 – 6
  • Golden/Green: Grades 1 – 8/9
    (This is what I bought as the backbone of Kitten’s middle school math.)
  • All Inclusive Package: ALL THREE of the above Series Packages
  • The Everything Bundle: All of the above, plus plenty of real-world math activities for middle school and high school.

If you’ve read my review of Math Mammoth and have been thinking about trying the program, this is a great chance to stock up on several levels at a great discount. Check it out!

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photo by Creativity103 via flickr

2012 Mathematics Game

photo by Creativity103 via flickr

For our homeschool, January is the time to assess our progress and make a few New Semester’s Resolutions. This year, we resolve to challenge ourselves to more math puzzles. Would you like to join us? Pump up your mental muscles with the 2012 Mathematics Game!

Rules of the Game

Use the digits in the year 2012 to write mathematical expressions for the counting numbers 1 through 100.

Bonus Rules
You may use the overhead-bar (vinculum), dots, or brackets to mark a repeating decimal.

You may use multifactorials:

  • n!! = a double factorial = the product of all integers from 1 to n that have the same parity (odd or even) as n.
  • n!!! = a triple factorial = the product of all integers from 1 to n that are equal to n mod 3

[Note to teachers: Math Forum modified their rules to allow double factorials, but as far as I know, they do not allow repeating decimals or triple factorials.]

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What to Do with a Hundred Chart #27

[Photo by geishaboy500.]

It began with a humble list of 7 things to do with a hundred chart in one of my out-of-print books about teaching home school math. Over the years I added a few new ideas, and online friends contributed still more, so the list grew to its current length of 26. Recently, thanks to several fans at pinterest, it has become the most popular post on my blog:

Now I am working several hours a day revising my old math books, in preparation for publishing new, much-expanded editions. And as I typed in all the new things to do with a hundred chart, I thought of one more to add to the list:

(27) How many numbers are there from 11 to 25? Are you sure? What does it mean to count from one number to another? When you count, do you include the first number, or the last one, or both, or neither? Talk about inclusive and exclusive counting, and then make up counting puzzles for each other.

Share Your Ideas

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.


Get all our new math tips and games:  Subscribe in a reader, or get updates by Email.


More Than One Way to Solve It, Again

photo by Annie Pilon via flickr

We continue with our counting lessons — and once again, Kitten proves that she doesn’t think the same way I do. In fact, her solution is so elegant that I think she could have a future as a mathematician. After all, every aspiring novelist needs a day job, right?

If only I could get her to give up the idea that she hates math…

Permutations with Complications

How many of the possible distinct arrangements of 1-6 have 1 to the left of 2?

Competition Math for Middle School, by J. Batterson

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by Scott Robinson via flickr

How to Understand Fraction Division

photo by Scott Robinson via flickr

A comment on my post Fraction Division — A Poem deserves a longer answer than I was able to type in the comment reply box. Whitecorp wrote:

Incidentally, this reminds me of a scene from a Japanese anime, where a young girl gets her elder sister to explain why 1/2 divided by 1/4 equals 2. The elder girl replies without skipping a heartbeat: you simply invert the 1/4 to become 4/1 and hence 1/2 times 4 equals 2.

The young one isn’t convinced, and asks how on earth it is possible to divide something by a quarter — she reasons you can cut a pie into 4 pieces, but how do you cut a pie into one quarter pieces? The elder one was at a loss, and simply told her to “accept it” and move on.

How would you explain the above in a manner which makes sense?

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