Printable Activity Guides

Since my publishing house opened its online store last month, I’ve been busy stocking the shelves with printable math activities for all ages.

It’s a fun collection of low- or no-prep ideas for playing math with your kids.

And it’s still growing. I’m pouring through old notes of my favorite projects from years of playing math with the kids in our math clubs and homeschool co-op enrichment classes, looking for ideas.

Someday, I hope to combine these books into a creative math “uncurriculum” for homeschoolers. Stay tuned to this blog for more news about that. Eventually…

Which One Will You Try?

We’ve made a few of the guides free: the first two Geometric Coloring Designs books, and the beautiful sample games from my Math You Can Play Kickstarter project.

For the rest, we’ve kept our prices as low as possible to fit struggling family budgets — less than a cup of coffee at my favorite cafe, back when we could still go out for a sweet, creamy cuppa.

Just go to our online store and click the “Printable Activity Guides” button to check out all the mathy fun.

Click Any Title for Details

Here are all the books we’ve posted so far.

Free Books:

Math Art:

Games and Puzzles:

Problem-Solving Skills:

My eventual goal is to have enough

New Printable Puzzle Books: Diffy Inception

The best way to practice math is to play with it—to use the patterns and connections between math concepts in your pursuit of something fun or beautiful.

Diffy Inception puzzles have their own symmetric beauty, but mostly they are just plain fun. Students can practice subtraction and look for patterns in the difference layers.

I just published four new activity books to our online store:

Notes to the teacher include puzzle instructions, game variations, journaling prompts, and more. Plus answers for all puzzles.

Available with 8 1/2 by 11 (letter size) or A4 pages.

Click for a Preview

My publishing company runs this online store, so you can find all my playful math books there — including an exclusive pre-publication ebook edition of my newest title, Prealgebra & Geometry: Math Games for Middle School. Click here to browse the Tabletop Academy Press store.

The Value of Puzzles

I love puzzles. Don’t you?

Here are several examples of river-crossing puzzles you and your kids can try. They date back at least to the time of Alcuin, the famous scholar from the court of Charlemagne.

I wish someone would write a whole math curriculum devoted entirely to puzzles.

W.W. Sawyer on the Value of Puzzles

Master teacher W.W. Sawyer didn’t write a curriculum, but he often used puzzles in the classroom.

“It is quite possible to use simultaneous equations as an introduction to algebra. Within a single lesson, pupils who previously did not know what x meant can come not merely to see what simultaneous equtions are, but to have some competence in solving them.

“No rules need to be learnt; the work proceeds on a basis of common sense.

“The problems the pupils solve in such a first lesson will not be of any practical value. They will be in the nature of puzzles.

“Fortunately, nature has so arranged things that until the age of twelve years or so, children are more interested in puzzles than in realistic problems.”

—W. W. Sawyer, Vision in Elementary Mathematics

Then he gives this example:

“A man has two sons. The sons are twins; they are the same height. If we add the man’s height to the height of one son, we get 10 feet. The total height of the man and the two sons is 14 feet. What are the heights of the man and his sons?”

Try This at Home

Not only can children solve puzzles like this, but even better — they can make up story puzzles of their own. You could spend a whole week or more making up silly height puzzles for each other to solve. By the time you were done, your kids would have a great introduction to algebra!

Maybe I never grew up. Because I still prefer puzzles over “real world” math problems.

What are your favorite kinds of puzzles? Please share in the comments section.

CREDITS: “Boat puzzles” comic from xkcd.com.
[THE FINE PRINT: I am an Amazon affiliate. If you follow the book link and buy something, I’ll earn a small commission (at no cost to you). But this book is a well-known classic, so you should be able to order it through your local library.]

More Dover Samples

“Without mathematics you can’t do anything! Everything around you is mathematics. Everything around you is numbers.”

—Anna Claybourne, I Can Be a Math Magician


Dover Publications sent out a new email today with fun coloring and craft samples. And several puzzles from I Can Be a Math Magician: Fun STEM Activities for Kids by Anna Claybourne.

Enjoy!

If you’d like to receive future Dover Sampler emails, you can sign up here.

THE FINE PRINT: I am an Amazon affiliate. If you follow the book link above and buy something, I’ll earn a small commission (at no cost to you).

Free Number Sense Resources from Steve Wyborney

If you teach children in the primary grades, you’ll enjoy this new series from the wonderful Steve Wyborney. Every day for the rest of the school year, Steve will post a new estimation or number sense resource for grades K–8 (or any age!) at his blog:

“This is my way of providing support and encouragement – as well as bringing math joy to your classroom… I’m going to stick with you all year long.”

—Steve Wyborney

Click to visit Steve’s blog

Free Sample: The Bogotá Puzzles

“Mathematics, besides being beautiful and useful, is fun. I hope [my book] brings mathematical joy to many.”

—Bernardo Recamán, The Bogotá Puzzles


Dover Publications occasionally posts free samples from some of their wonderful collection of books. This month’s sampler includes several puzzles from The Bogotá Puzzles by Bernardo Recamán.

Inspired by such illustrious collections as The Canterbury Puzzles, The Moscow Puzzles, and The Tokyo Puzzles. Colombian mathematician and professor Bernardo Recamán assembled these 80 brainteasers, word problems, sudoku-style challenges, and other math-based diversions while living and working in Bogotá.

Enjoy!

If you’d like to receive future Dover Sampler emails, you can sign up here.

THE FINE PRINT: I am an Amazon affiliate. If you follow the book link above and buy something, I’ll earn a small commission (at no cost to you).

Playing with a Hundred Chart #36: Cover 100 Squares

Patrick Vennebush shared this puzzle from his new book, One-Hundred Problems Involving the Number 100:

It’s easy to cover a hundred chart with 100 small squares: 10 rows of 10 squares = 100.

It’s easy to cover a hundred chart with one big square: one 10×10 square = 100.

But can you cover the chart with 20 squares? Or with 57 squares? The squares do NOT have to be all the same size.

If we only consider squares with whole-number sides, so they exactly fit on the grid, then:

  • What numbers of squares work to cover the chart?
  • What numbers don’t work — and can you prove it?

Click to read the original puzzle along with some teaching tips at Patrick’s blog:

Covering 100 Squares

If you’d like some printable hundred charts for coloring in squares, download my free Hundred Charts Galore! file from my publisher’s online store:

Hundred Charts Galore!

And discover more ways to play with these printables in my classic blog post: 30+ Things to Do with a Hundred Chart.

The Gerrymander Math Project

With a big election on the horizon, now is a great time to talk about the math of politics.

Does “One person, one vote” make a fair democracy?

Or does it give the majority license to trample a minority?

How can planners arrange voting districts to give everyone the best representation? And is that really what politicians would do, if they had the choice?

Try the Gerrymander Project with your students to investigate these questions and spark real-world mathematical discussion.

First, Create a Map

[Or buy a copy of my printable activity guide, The Gerrymander Project: Math in the World of Politics, which includes a prepared city map with more detailed instructions, answers, and journaling prompts. My publisher has extended the 10% discount code TBLTOP10 through to Election Day, 3 November 2020.]

  • Print a blank hundred chart or outline a 10×10 square on grid paper. This represents your city. Give it a name.
  • Pull out your colored pencils. Choose one color for your city’s Majority Party and another for the Minority Party.
  • Color 10 squares in a neutral color for non-voting areas. These might be malls or parks or the downtown business district — your choice.
  • Color the remaining 90 blocks in a random distribution so that 60% are the Majority color and 40% the Minority. How will you choose which squares to make which colors? Can you think of a way to use dice or playing cards to make your choices random, yet still get the right proportion?

Slip your finished map into a clear page protector, so you can mark on it with dry-erase markers. Or make several copies, so you can write on them without destroying the original.

Then Gerrymander Your City

“Gerrymandering” is the American political tradition of adjusting the voting district boundaries to favor one’s own party at the expense of one’s opponents.

The city has hired you to mark out 10 new voting districts of 9 squares each (not counting the neutral squares, which can go in any district). The squares in each district must touch side-to-side, not just meet at a corner.

So now you get to play “political hack.”

First, see how fair you can make the map:

  • What happens if you ignore the party colors and make your districts as compact as possible, so the people living nearest to each other vote together? Will the Majority Party always win?
  • Can you give all your voters a proportional representation? Both parties should win the number of districts that most closely matches their percentage of the voting population.

Next, try your hand at gerrymandering, but make sure all the squares in each district stay connected. Can you create ten voting districts that will guarantee:

  • A come-from-behind triumph for the Minority Party? They need to carry at least six districts to wrest control of the City Council from their opponents.
  • The greatest possible margin of victory for the Majority Party? Can you keep the Minority from winning any districts at all?

Share Your Thoughts

I’d love to hear your students’ reaction to this project. Please share in the comments section below.

For myself, the more I play with this project, the more I admire the work done by the framers of the U.S. Constitution. Our Electoral College divides the country into “districts” based on state boundaries, giving each a vote roughly proportional to its population — but in a way that slightly strengthens the Minority Party. The system may not be perfect, but it’s done an amazing job through the centuries of maintaining a balance of power, making sure that neither major political party can destroy the other.

Which is NOT to say that our country always protects the rights of true minorities. Clearly, that’s an ongoing struggle.

But overall, the political parties stay relatively balanced, making for a stable government. After more than two centuries, we still have, as Ben Franklin said, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

More Math War with Special Decks

Just updated my blog post Math Game: War with Special Decks to add a couple of games I missed the first time around:

And…

If you’d like more ways to play with math from preschool to high school, check out My Favorite Math Games.

CREDITS: “Red playing cards” photo by José Pablo Iglesias via Unsplash.com.

Parallel and Perpendicular Art

I love this easy-but-beautiful math art project!

1. Print a page of dotty or lined graph paper for each student. You’ll also need a ruler and a large assortment of markers or colored pencils.

2. Students draw a line across the page, lining up their ruler with the grid points. The first line can be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal.

3. Keep drawing lines, but NEVER cross a line you’ve already drawn. Following the grid will create many lines parallel or perpendicular to each other. What angles can you identify?

4. Color as desired. For a stained-glass effect, outline the colored areas with a black Sharpie marker.

Look for more math art ideas in my FREE new book Geometric Coloring Designs 2: Create Your Own Art. Visit my publisher’s online store and click the “Free Books” button.

CREDITS: I saw this project at Cindy’s Love2Learn2Day blog. She got the idea from Zachary‘s MathActivities site.