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5 principles of extraordinary math teaching

We’re just finishing up a massive project of creating a supplementary curriculum for Seattle’s Summer School program. We realized that the spirit of the lessons was even more important than the content. To this end, we designed the activities to encourage students to own their mathematical experiences, to give kids an opportunity—and a reason—to fall in love with math. So …

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Math that makes worlds

From the May 18 New Yorker article World Without End, by Raffi Khatchadourian: The design allows for extraordinary economy in computer processing: the terrain for eighteen quintillion unique planets flows out of only fourteen hundred lines of code. Because all the necessary visual information in the game is described by formulas, nothing needs to be rendered graphically until a player …

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Quick Physical Games for the Math Classroom

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that kids need to move around, and creating opportunities to move during math class can pay off in spades. Therefore, we have a collection of some of our favorite math/movement quick activities to share. These are especially good for K-4, though they’re adaptable to older and younger grades too. They provide a dose …

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Counting Collections and Dots and Boxes, fractional version

I just rewrote our write up of Counting Collections, and reclassified it on our Lessons page as a Foundational Activity. The reclassification was motivated in part by a conversation with a Kindergarten teacher, who mentioned that she had been having the kids in her room count collections every Friday. “I help kids who need it,” she said, “but honestly, they’re …

Cheryl’s Birthday Party, Meta-logic, and the known unknown

I almost missed the Cheryl’s Birthday Party internet phenomenon this week. An awkwardly written logic problem went viral, and the internet was abuzz with attempts to solve it. Check out the NYTimes treatment of the origial pnroblem, and the afterparty. The problem is an example of a metalogic puzzle. Logic puzzles usually consist of organizing what you know and don’t …

Play is where love begins

I recently wrote a piece for the New York Times Numberplay blog on what we do to help people fall in love with math. I thought I’d include it here. __________________________ No matter whom we work with, our initial goal is for them to have an authentic, mathematical experience; that is the first step to helping anyone — teachers, students, …

Spring Classes, Summer Classes, and Julia Robinson Festival

Recently, in an art gallery in Ballard, I saw the amazing painting above. (Check out the artist’s website here.) I love this kind of mathematical art–the tessellation in the background a kind of blanket that subsumes the floor and clothes of the people in the picture. It’s a meeting of mathematical structure and organic complexity. We’re going to be exploring all kinds of beautiful …

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Three Square Problem and Variations

I just saw an absolutely charming problem on Numberphile that I was shocked never to have seen before. They call it the Three Square Problem (featuring Professor Zvezdelina Stankova).  Three Square Problem Prove that It feels, as Prof. S says in the video, like a beautiful conjecture. I highly recommend trying to come up with a proof. There are many (54!), and …

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what’s awesome about algebra

As students are enrolling in pre-algebra and algebra in droves, I thought I would post this video, which is part 1 of a magic trick illustrating the mind-boggling power of algebra. It is very common to learn how to do algebra without learning why to do it. To me, this magic trick gives a sense of how useful and powerful …

Fall Registration Open

If you are in Seattle or Bellevue, we have a host of great classes and circles to offer this fall, all focusing on the beauty, power, and elegance of mathematics. Saturday Classes at the PNA in Phinney Ridge This Saturday session runs for six sessions, from October 18 – November 22. This session’s topic: Games, Logic and Arithmetic. Kindergarten & 1st grade Section …