Sidewalk Math Challenge

April 10, 2020

Math at home support emails so far

Support email #1: dice games
Support email #2: pencil and paper games
Support email #3: free resources
Support email #4: subtraction support
Support email #5: math games and movement breaks
Support email #6: Tiny Polka Dot games
Support email #7: Star Polygons, a Math/Art Exploration
Support email #8: Math Conversations at Home
Today: The #Mathwalk Challenge

The Crisis and the Opportunity

As I’m having conversations with teachers and parents, something is becoming more clear. This is a time of dislocation and upheaval, crisis and challenge. We know all that. I’m in awe of public schooling as a societal commitment, and I believe deeply in the intention to educate all children, excellently, and for free. I’ve grown to believe that working within and trying to improve that system was the right choice, and that is where we devoted much of our effort. Schools don’t do a perfect job, but many of us are missing them now!

However, there’s a tremendous opportunity for new educational ideas right now, precisely because normal life is so dislocated. There is space to challenge the assumptions about what learning looks like and how it happens. Alternative visions of positive education abound.

For example, we’ve advocated (strongly, for years) for a play-based approach to education. You can use games, puzzles, blocks, and provocations to explore mathematics more rigorously than with the “standard” approach, not less! Maybe more families have a chance to see why this is true, now that it’s becoming more necessary to find motivating approaches to math at home. The teachers I know are certainly sending games home for families to try playing. I hope that people are pursuing the opportunity to explore play-based mathematics right now, and I hope that creates a lasting change when the schools reopen.

There’s another opportunity too. Math class is no longer 45/60/75 minutes long. You can do 5 minutes of math practice one day and a 3-hour exploration the next. And math doesn’t have to be locked away in just one classroom. You can have a math discussion about what you’re cooking, or crafting, or toys, or—oh, I don’t know—the spread of covid-19, and it can be a more organic part of your life.

I’ve been looking out for projects and problems that will capture kids’ interest and attention, and engross them for a long haul. I’ve seen something recently that I find quite inspiring, and I want to offer it as a challenge.

The #Mathwalk Challenge

Consider Traci Jackson (@traciteacher on Twitter) and her #mathwalk photos of chalk sidewalk drawings of math conundrums. She’s posing math problems for passersby to pull them in. (Echoes of nerdsniping.)

Here are a few favorite images from her site,, including one that features one of my Fraction Talks ????

And here’s the challenge for you: make a #mathwalk image of your own, and post it online (Use hashtag #mathwalk. You can add @mathforlove too! I’m on Twitter and Facebook). Just deciding to choose or create a problem you find fun and inspiring and share it with the world is a particularly wonderful opportunity.

We should seize those right now.

News: A new Kickstarter next week

Many of you may know our games, Tiny Polka Dot and Prime Climb. Both were originally launched on And coming next week, we’re going to have a new campaign, for a new product that has features of both Tiny Polka Dot and Prime Climb.

Since I’ve been trying to use this email list to share free resources to help with math in the time of coronavirus, I’m a little hesitant to mention new work that’s for sale. I’ll try to keep the emails about the campaign self-contained, and please ignore them if you  you don’t have disposable income right now.

But I’m hopeful that what’s coming will be a hugely useful educational tool, and I’m hopeful that many of you will want it for yourselves, and will help us to bring it into the world.

Here’s a sneak peek of what it looks like.

Keep your eyes peeled for more news on these cards next week!
Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Heather Chaney
Heather Chaney
4 years ago

YES!!! I would buy sets for my whole 3-5 team, and for my own kids and friends as well!! I love this idea!!!