Math Storytelling Day: The Hospital Floor

[Feature photo above by Christiaan Triebert via flickr (CC BY 2.0).]

Have you ever heard of Math Storytelling Day? On September 25, people around the world celebrate mathematics by telling stories together. The stories can be real — like my story below — or fictional like the tale of Wizard Mathys from Fantasia and his crystal ball communication system.

Check out these posts for more information:

My Math Story

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My story begins with an unexpected adventure in pain. Appendicitis sidewhacked my life last week, but that’s not the story. It’s just the setting. During my recovery, I spent a lot of time in the smaller room of my hospital suite. I noticed this semi-random pattern in the floor tile, which made me wonder:

  • Did they choose the pattern to keep their customers from getting bored while they were … occupied?
  • Is the randomness real? Or can I find a line of symmetry or a set of tiles that repeat?
  • If I take pictures from enough different angles, could I transfer the whole floor to graph paper for further study?
  • And if the nurse finds me doing this, will she send me to a different ward of the hospital? Do hospitals have psychiatric wards, or is that only in the movies?
  • What is the biggest chunk of squares I could “break out” from this pattern that would create the illusion of a regular, repeating tessellation?

I gave up on the graph paper idea (for now) and printed the pictures to play with. By my definition, “broken” pattern chunks need to be contiguous along the sides of the tiles, like pentominoes. Also, the edge of the chunk must be a clean break along the mortar lines. The piece can zigzag all over the place, but it isn’t allowed to come back and touch itself anywhere, even at a corner. No holes allowed.

I’m counting the plain squares as the unit and each of the smaller rectangles as a half square. So far, the biggest chunk of repeating tiles I’ve managed to break out is 283 squares.

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What Math Stories Will You Tell?

Have you and your children created any mathematical stories this year? I’d love to hear them! Please share your links in the comments section below.


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Math Teachers at Play #78 via 1001 Math Problems

blog carnival 78 graphic

Math Teachers at Play is a traveling collection of math tidbits — games, lesson ideas, and more — from around the Internet. It moves around from month to month, and the September edition is now posted at 1001 Math Problems blog. What a fun list of math posts to browse!

Welcome to the 78th edition of the Math Teachers At Play math education blog carnival, which I am thrilled to be hosting this month in celebration of my soon-to-be-released book, Camp Logic. What is the blog carnival? It is a monthly snapshot of some interesting recent ideas and activities posted by math education bloggers all over the internet.

By tradition, I begin with a fun fact about the number 78:

Seventy-eight is the 12th triangle number, which means that it is the sum of the integers from 1 to 12. Therefore, it is also the total number of gifts given on the last day in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas!” …

Click here to go read the whole carnival.

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