The Procrastinating Blogger Award

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.

Don Marquis

Joyful Days kindly nominated me for the Thinking Blogger Award back in the days of the dinosaurs. Well, she isn’t that old, really — it was only last April. I am grateful to her for thinking of me, and ever since then I have been thinking deeply about whom to nominate in my turn. Or, to be more precise, I printed out the nomination post as a reminder, and then it got lost in a pile of “to sort/read/file” papers on a shelf under my desk…

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Egyptian Math in Hieroglyphs

Pyramids clip artEgyptians wrote in hieroglyphs, a type of picture writing, and in hieratics, which were like a cursive form of hieroglyphs.

Hieroglyphs came first. They were carved in the stone walls of temples and tombs, written on monuments, and used to decorate furniture. But they were a nuisance for scribes, who simplified the pictures and slurred some lines together when they wrote in ink on paper-like papyrus. This hieratic writing — like some people’s cursive today — can be hard to read, so we are only using hieroglyphic numbers on this blog.

Download this page from my old newsletter, and try your hand at translating some Egyptian hieroglyphs:

Then try writing some hieroglyphic calculations of your own.

Edited to add: The answers to these puzzles (and more) are now posted here.

To Be Continued…

Read all the posts from the September/October 1998 issue of my Mathematical Adventures of Alexandria Jones newsletter.

Puzzle: Random Blocks

Red block puzzle

In the first section of George Lenchner’s Creative Problem Solving in School Mathematics, right after his obligatory obeisance to George Polya (see the third quote here), Lechner poses this problem. If you have seen it before, be patient — his point was much more than simply counting blocks.

A wooden cube that measures 3 cm along each edge is painted red. The painted cube is then cut into 1-cm cubes as shown above. How many of the 1-cm cubes do not have red paint on any face?

And then he challenges us as teachers:

Do you have any ideas for extending the problem?
If so, then jot them down.

This is strategically placed at the end of a right-hand page, and I was able to resist turning to read on. I came up with a list of 15 other questions that could have been asked — some of which will be used in future Alexandria Jones stories. Lechner wrote only seven elementary-level problems, and yet his list had at least two questions that I had not considered. How many can you come up with?

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Quotations XIII: Mathematics Education Is Much More Complicated than You Expected

Registrations have been rolling in for our homeschool co-op, and the most popular classes are full already. Math doesn’t seem to be a “most popular” class. I can’t imagine why! Still, many of my students from last year are coming back for another go, and I am getting spill-over from the science class waiting list.

Anyway, I have started planning in earnest for our fall session. As usual, I look to those wiser than myself for inspiration…

Many teachers are concerned about the amount of material they must cover in a course. One cynic suggested a formula: since, he said, students on the average remember only about 40% of what you tell them, the thing to do is to cram into each course 250% of what you hope will stick.

Paul Halmos

Continue reading Quotations XIII: Mathematics Education Is Much More Complicated than You Expected

The Thief in the Night

Alexandria Jones

Alexandria Jones and her faithful dog Ramus slipped out of the tent when the talking started. One of Dad’s assistants had made the long drive into town to bring back pizza for supper. But now, all the adults would be working past midnight to finish the final site report.

Paperwork was necessary, she knew, but so-o-o boring.

Alex and Rammy wandered around the nearly-dark camp. Many of the tents were down. Crates stood near the road. All the artifacts had been carefully cleaned and labeled, and some were already shipped to the museum lab.

She ran a hand over the edge of a crate, then jerked back, wincing at the splinter that dug into her palm.

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Math Jokes

Blame it on MathNotations and his Corny Math Jokes (which actually included one I hadn’t heard before) — or maybe I have been reading too many of Chickenfoot’s strange tales — but anyway, I’m in a mood for humor.

So here are a couple of old favorites:

Eric W. Weisstein
from MathWorld–A Wolfram Web Resource

Hat tip: These had gotten lost in the dustbunnies of my memory until I saw the Frivolous Theorem mentioned recently at Art of Problem Solving.

Edited to add: Scott at Grey Matters recently updated his Mathematical Humor post, which may be where I had originally read these. He links to several more great MathWorld jokes, including the ever-tasty Pizza Theorem.

Welcome, Princess Kitten!

Not to be outdone by her older brother, Princess Kitten insisted on starting a blog of her own:

Kitten’s Purring

I have given them a section of my blogroll. If you are interested, they would both love to have you drop by and read their stories. Chickenfoot is writing in the “fractured fairytale” vein, at least for now, while Kitten’s tales tend toward animal adventures.

This teacher’s opinion: It certainly beats those dreaded “Pretend you’re a pencil” essays!