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 Samuel Mann (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr.]

Here’s one more quote from homeschooling guru Ruth Beechick. It applies to classroom teachers, too!

Everyone thinks it goes smoothly in everyone else’s house, and theirs is the only place that has problems.

I’ll let you in on a secret about teaching: there is no place in the world where it rolls along smoothly without problems. Only in articles and books can that happen.

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

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

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

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

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 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.

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

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

Here’s the problem:

How can you divide eight sausages evenly among five people?

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

I sat in class 3 days ago and though to myself, “They need a class called ‘Math as a second language’ or MSL for short.”

It is easy to understand what a median is, or what attributes a kite has, or why is a rectangle a square but a square not a rectangle… for a minute or a day.

It is easy to temporarily memorize a fact. But without true understanding of the concept those “definitions” fade. If the foundation of truly understanding is not there to begin with then there is little hope for any true scaffolding and even less chance of any true learning.

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.

I discovered this gem in my blog reading today. One of the secrets of great teaching:

Audrey seemed, for once, at a loss for words. She was thinking about the question.

I try to stay focused on being silent after I ask young children questions, even semi-serious accidental ones. Unlike most adults, they actually take time to think about their answers and that often means waiting for a response, at least if you want an honest answer.

If you’re only looking for the “right” answer, it’s fairly easy to gently badger a child into it, but I’m not interested in doing that.

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.

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:

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.

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:

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.

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.

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!

POLYHEDRON PUZZLE

By tradition, we start the carnival with a puzzle in honor of our 62nd edition:

An Archimedean solid is a polyhedron made of two or more types of regular polygons meeting in identical vertices. A rhombicosidodecahedron (see image above) has 62 sides: triangles, squares, and pentagons.

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:

As for mathematics itself, it’s one of the most adventurous endeavors a young child can experience. Mathematics is exotic, even bizarre. It is surprising and unpredictable. And it can be more exciting, scary and dangerous than sailing the high seas!

But most parents and educators don’t present math this way. They just want the children to develop their mathematical skills rather than going for something more nebulous, like the mathematical state of mind.

…

Children marvel as snowflakes magically become fractals, inviting explorations of infinity, symmetry and recursion. Cookies offer gameplay in combinatorics and calculus. Paint chips come in beautiful gradients, and floor tiles form tessellations. Bedtime routines turn into children’s first algorithms. Cooking, then mashing potatoes (and not the other way around!) humorously introduces commutative property. Noticing and exploring math becomes a lot more interesting, even addictive.

Unlike simplistic math that quickly becomes boring, these deep experiences remain fresh, because they grow together with children’s and parents’ understanding of mathematics.

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.”

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. If you like to learn new things and play around with ideas, you are sure to find something of interest.

Let the mathematical fun begin…

PUZZLE 1

By tradition, we start the carnival with a pair of puzzles in honor of our 58th edition. Click to download the pdf:

PUZZLE 2

A Smith number is an integer the sum of whose digits is equal to the sum of the digits in its prime factorization.

Got that? Well, 58 will help us to get a better grasp on that definition. Observe:

58 = 2 × 29

and

5 + 8 = 13
2 + 2 + 9 = 13

And that’s all there is to it! I suppose we might say that 58’s last name is Smith. [Nah! Better not.]

What is the only Smith number that’s less than 10?

There are four more two-digit Smith numbers. Can you find them?

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 Google Reader. Enjoy!

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.