Math Teachers at Play #79


[Feature photo above by Jimmie, and “79” image (right) by Steve Bowbrick via flickr (CC BY 2.0).]

Do you enjoy math? I hope so! If not, browsing this post just may change your mind.

Welcome to the 79th edition of the Math Teachers At Play (MTaP) math education blog carnival — a smorgasbord of links to bloggers all around the internet who have great ideas for learning, teaching, and playing around with math from preschool to pre-college.

Let the mathematical fun begin!

By tradition, we start the carnival with a puzzle, game, or trivia tidbits. If you would like to jump straight to our featured blog posts, click here to see the Table of Contents.

Since I’ve been spending all my free time working on my upcoming Math You Can Play book series, I’m in the mood for games. So I found a few games featuring prime and nonprime numbers [which category is #79 — do you know?], and I’ll sprinkle some of my best-loved math game books throughout the carnival.


Students can explore prime and non-prime numbers with two free classroom favorites: The Factor Game (pdf lesson download) or Tax Collector. For $15-20 you can buy a downloadable file of the beautiful, colorful, mathematical board game Prime Climb. Or try the following game by retired Canadian math professor Jerry Ameis:

Factor Finding Game


Math Concepts: multiples, factors, composites, and primes.
Players: only two.
Equipment: pair of 6-sided dice, 10 squares each of two different colors construction paper, and the game board (click the image to print it, or copy by hand).

On your turn, roll the dice and make a 2-digit number. Use one of your colored squares to mark a position on the game board. You can only mark one square per turn.

  • If your 2-digit number is prime, cover a PRIME square.
  • If any of the numbers showing are factors of your 2-digit number, cover one of them.
  • BUT if there’s no square available that matches your number, you lose your turn.

The first player to get three squares in a row (horizontal/vertical/diagonal) wins. Or for a harder challenge, try for four in a row.

Hat tips: Jimmie Lanley.


And now, on to the main attraction: the blog posts. Many articles were submitted by their authors; others were drawn from the immense backlog in my rss reader. If you’d like to skip directly to your area of interest, click one of these links.


Peggy Kaye gives parents more than fifty marvelous and effective ways to help their children learn math by doing just what kids love best: playing games.

  • The answers to some math questions depend on how you define your terms, patterns, or ways of looking at the problem. Tabitha poses an interesting conundrum: Math in the Alphabet.
  • Sadie Estrella’s niece tells how she knows fractions, because “Doubles are easy.” [TMWYK] Oranges.

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smarty pants

This fun collection of cartoony illustrations, games, and creative activities offers a common-sense approach to mathematics for those who are slightly terrified of numbers.

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This collection of puzzles, games and activities is designed to stimulate and challenge people of all ages. Many of the puzzles have a long history, while others are original. Includes hints and solutions.

  • Lisa Winer presents a mathemagic trick that gets her students’ attention every year in 1089 Math Magic Trick (and more). Can your kids explain why it works?
  • Megan Schmidt challenges her algebra students with a deceptively non-algebraic-looking puzzle: The Un-Puzzle.
  • Jennifer Wilson’s students tackle the big question of math, “How can we be sure?”, by proving conjectures about their Origami Regular Octagons.
  • John Golden shares a wealth of wonderful “for cheap or free” resources for Algebra and Geometry in Such a Thing as Free.

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These mathematical recreations of paradoxes and paper folding, Moebius variations and mnemonics, both ancient and modern, will delight and perplex while demonstrating principles of logic, probability, geometry, and more.

  • What does it mean to be “normal,” at least approximately? Bob Lochel’s students wrestle with the tricky problem of Assessing Normality in AP Stats.
  • Having trouble convincing your students that correlation doesn’t actually correlate with causation? Explore the fun at Tyler Vigen’s Spurious Correlations.

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Games with Pencil and Paper

Entertaining diversions for players of all ages in which only pencil and paper are needed: old favorites and less familiar games. I can’t believe Dover let this wonderful book go out of print!

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Math, history, art, and world cultures come together in this delightful book for kids. More than 70 games, puzzles, and projects encourage kids to hone their math skills.

  • Tracy Zager seeks out strategies to answer the question, “How do we teach students to read math problems for understanding in a way that will yield empowered students who expect math to make sense?”
  • John Golden asks his elementary ed students think about What’s a Problem? Fun post, and the “gotcha!” in the area investigation made me laugh.

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Book images are from, and if you click on a cover, the links take you to that book’s Amazon page, where you can read reviews and other details (and where I earn a small affiliate commission if you actually buy the book). But all of these books should be available through your public library or via inter-library loan.

And that rounds up this edition of the Math Teachers at Play carnival. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

The next installment of our carnival will open sometime during the week of November 24-28: MTaP 80 at Triumphant Learning. If you would like to contribute, please use this handy submission form. Posts must be relevant to students or teachers of preK-12 mathematics. Old posts are welcome, as long as they haven’t been published in past editions of this carnival.

Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival information page.

We need more volunteers. Classroom teachers, homeschoolers, unschoolers, or anyone who likes to play around with math (even if the only person you “teach” is yourself) — if you would like to take a turn hosting the Math Teachers at Play blog carnival, please speak up!

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