Problem Solving with James Tanton

At the back of my new Word Problems from Literature book, I’ve included an appendix with links to recommended online resources.

Check in on the Kickstarter

So I thought this week, I’d share some of my favorites with you. First up: Problem Solving Tips from James Tanton.

You may know Tanton from the popular Exploding Dots and other activities at the Global Math Project website. But he’s been busy for decades sharing the delight and the beauty of the subject. He currently serves as the Mathematician-at-Large for the Mathematical Association of America.

Read on to discover several of Tanton’s best problem-solving tips for middle school and older students.

Have fun exploring math with your kids!

How to Think like a School Math Genius

In this 4-video series, Tanton presents five key principles for brilliant mathematical thinking, along with loads and loads of examples to explain what he means by each of them. A call for parents and teachers to be mindful of the life thinking we should foster, encourage, promote, embrace and reward — even in a math class!

Watch the Videos

Two Key — but Ignored —Steps to Solving Any Math Problem

How many degrees in a Martian circle?
Every challenge or problem we encounter in mathematics (or life!) elicits a human response. The dryness of textbooks and worksheets in the school world might suggest otherwise, but connecting with one’s emotions is fundamental and vital for success — and of course, joy — in doing mathematics.

Read the Article

MAA AMC Curriculum Inspirations

Essays and videos showing how to approach math puzzles in a way that a) is relevant and connected to the curriculum, and b) revels in deep, joyous, mulling and flailing, reflection, intellectual play and extension, insight, and grand mathematical delight.

Scroll down and start with the Ten Problem-Solving Strategies.

Download the Puzzles

Think Puzzles and Think Cool Math

Here are some essays illustrating astounding tidbits of mathematical delight. And here are some purely visual puzzles to surprise.

Explore and Enjoy

“The true joy in mathematics, the true hook that compels mathematicians to devote their careers to the subject, comes from a sense of boundless wonder induced by the subject.

    “There is transcendental beauty, there are deep and intriguing connections, there are surprises and rewards, and there is play and creativity.

      “Mathematics has very little to do with crunching numbers. Mathematics is a landscape of ideas and wonders.”

      —James Tanton

      CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by Ian Stauffer via

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