Playing with Math and more

July 2, 2014

Early summer is a great time of year in Seattle and Eastern WA, where we’re splitting our time right now. We’ve been pouring energy into a few projects: launching our new game, Prime Climb; supporting Seattle Summer School with curriculum and professional development support; piloting a Math for Love summer camp, which just wrapped up after an excellent week; and setting up for fall. But in the midst of this, there has been some moments to down-regulate, and these times to breathe have been vital. I’ve gotten to read and take walks and relax, and I can feel my mind expanding as it gets a chance to rest.

I thought I’d give an update of some interesting mathematical things coming out right now: a board game (ours), a book, a video game, and a video series. All of them cost money, but depending on your interests, needs, and financial status, I think they all might be worth it.

Prime Climb.

Our new board game, Prime Climb, had a great showing on Kickstarter last month, and we’re working on the next step of getting the design finalized and the game put out into the world—not to mention the fascinating and challenging work of figuring out how domestic and international distribution works (we hope to be big in Japan). It’s very hard to predict what the future of Prime Climb will be, but you can ensure you get a game from the first printing if you pre-order this summer. Just click the “games” link above, or click here. You can get the game shipped to you in the US for $35.

Playing with Math.

I’ve read about a third of Playing with Math, but I wanted to get this review out now since a crowd-funding campaign for the book is underway. Sue Van Hattum set out years ago to put together the book she wanted to read, and Playing with Math is the result. The organization is simple: Sue contacted dozens of the people she saw doing cutting edge work in mathematics teaching and asked them to write a brief piece about their work. Among those contributing to the book are leaders of math circles, homeschooling parents, innovative teachers, bloggers and writers, and more, each telling stories that encapsulate their perspective and the results of their experience. There are math puzzles, games, and projects peppered throughout the pages as well.

Playing with Math is an exciting book. There’s a thrill of people really experimenting here, working out the possibilities of how math can be taught. The authors share their missteps and their successes; through it all, you start to see a coherent philosophy taking shape. Learning math requires struggle and joy… it’s serious play. But over and over, the right challenges at the right time empower the student, and build momentum for their continuing journey in mathematics. It’s easy to say it–the details are what’s tricky. This book is a story of those details.

Not surprisingly, the pieces can be a bit uneven, but it’s easy to turn the page if one of the stories doesn’t speak to you. And there are some gems in this book. The Kaplans’ story of leading a prison math circle is a laugh-out-loud pleasure to read, and Colleen King’s description of turning math subjects into student-designed games is a vivid picture of a teacher discovering a new way to teach as her students discover a new way to think. This book is a snapshot of the work of some of the trailblazers of math education working now, and worth reading.

Support the Playing with Math campaign here, and get yourself a copy of the book. ($25 in the US.)


Even the best math video games tend to be about skill building. Add in good graphics, first person game play, etc., and you still tend to have a textbook approach to math underneath the play. But there’s a game out that looks like it might be different. Mathbreakers, on Kickstarter till Saturday, seems to be about creative play with mathematics in a way that other games aren’t. It looks like a Legend of Zelda with mathematics underneath it; you don’t rise in the game by answering a specific math problem, but by finding creative ways to make the necessary numbers in any way you can. It looks like a leap forward in math gaming, and I want to play it.

This campaign has three days to make its last 15%. You can pledge here and get the game for $25.

James Tanton’s Geometry in the Great Courses

I’ve never bought a Great Courses DVD–they strike me as overly expensive and not necessarily better than what you can get for free online. That was before I saw that James Tanton has a Great Courses course on geometry. James is one of the best math teachers and curriculum designers in the country, and one of the few people who always teaches me something new. James has tons of free videos on his website, and a great monthly newsletter, but this new course looks like it’s a step up in terms of production values and pacing. If you’re looking for a video geometry program and planning to spend some money on it, you should check out James Tanton’s new geometry in the Great Courses.

Expensive at $320 – 375. But if you go for Great Courses, then this is one to get.

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