What Are Mixed Numbers?

I just discovered a fascinating fact: In some places in the world, mixed numbers apparently don’t exist.

So that made me curious about my blog readers:

  • Did you learn about mixed numbers in school?
  • Do you ever use mixed numbers in daily life?
  • Are your children learning to work with them?

And if you DO know mixed numbers, can you simplify this mess:

[If you enjoy dry math humor, the answer is worth the work.]

Continue reading What Are Mixed Numbers?

Mathematical Days of Christmas

Enjoy this bit of seasonal fidgeting from Vi Hart.

If you don’t understand some of the references, that’s normal! Pick a phrase, Google it, and relish the fun of learning something new.

Did your device hide the video? Find it on YouTube here.

For More Holiday Math

CREDITS: Lamppost photo (top) by Aaron Burden via Unsplash.com.

Math Advent Calendars for 2020

Would you like to add some no-preparation-required fun to your math lessons this month?

Check out these creative mathematical Advent calendars, each featuring one puzzle or activity per day for December 1–24.

Some of the calendars may show a previous year’s date. (This is 2020 after all!) But the puzzles are evergreen — you can enjoy them anytime.

For more Advent-math links, visit Colleen Young’s Mathematical Advent Calendars post. And don’t miss my massive blog post Holiday Math Puzzles and Activities for Christmas, Winter Break.

Can You Do the Math Salute?

Did your device hide the video? Find it on YouTube here.

How Is This Math?

The idea that math is only about numbers, calculations, and textbook exercises is one of the greatest lies we learn in school. Of course, nobody ever comes straight out and actually says that. But the whole system teaches us every day what counts for math and what doesn’t.

James Tanton’s math salute is a physical puzzle.

How in the world did he do that?

Physical puzzles don’t fit into our cultural understanding of math. But the process of figuring out the puzzle is the same problem-solving process we use to figure out other puzzles — including the puzzles we call math.

In fact, real mathematics is all about figuring out puzzles without a teacher showing you what to do. Problem-solving is a universally useful skill.

As master teacher W. W. Sawyer said:

“Everyone knows that it is easy to do a puzzle if someone has told you the answer. That is simply a test of memory. You can claim to be a mathematician only if you can solve puzzles that you have never studied before. That is the test of reasoning.”

—W. W. Sawyer, Mathematician’s Delight

So tackle the puzzle of the math salute. Show it to your kids. (And don’t be surprised if they figure it out before you do!)

[THE FINE PRINT: I am an Amazon affiliate. If you follow the 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.]

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.

Exciting New Homeschool Math Program

Homeschooling friends, check out this new homeschool math program that’s fun, rigorous, and engaging — a delightful, hands-on course that helps parents (and their children) understand math.

Introduction to Cuisenaire Rod Structures Course

I had the privilege of previewing this class as Sonya and Lacy put it together. I highly recommend it to anyone who struggles with math, or who wants to take a non-traditional approach.

By focusing on making sense of number relationships, and by teaching algebra before arithmetic, this course provides a stress-free path to rich mathematical mastery.

And for all they provide, including weekly live workshops and a slew of printable math journal pages that prompt deep thinking, the price is a steal!

Continue reading Exciting New Homeschool Math Program

Master Your Tools

As I’ve mentioned before, I decided to try my hand at rewriting the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

Here’s my version of SMP5…

Math Tip #5: Master Your Tools.

  • Collect problem-solving tools.
  • Practice until you can use them with confidence.
  • Classic math tools: pencil and paper, ruler, protractor, compass.
  • Modern tools: calculator, spreadsheet, computer software, online resources.
  • Physical items: dice, counters, special math manipulatives.
  • Tools for organizing data: graphs, charts, lists, diagrams.
  • Your most important weapon is your own mind. Be eager to explore ideas that deepen your understanding of math concepts.

Continue reading Master Your Tools

FAQ: Playful Math for Older Students

My students are so busy that time-consuming math projects are a luxury. How is it possible for older kids to play with mathematics?

Too often, the modern American school math curriculum is a relentless treadmill driving students toward calculus. (Does this happen in other countries, too?)

But that’s definitely not the only way to learn. For most students, it’s not the best way, either.

Here are a few ideas to get your older children playing with math…

Continue reading FAQ: Playful Math for Older Students

Look Beneath the Surface

So, I decided to try my hand at rewriting the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

Here’s the fourth installment…

Math Tip #4: Look Beneath the Surface.

  • Notice the math behind everyday life.
  • Examine a complex situation. Ignore the parts that aren’t relevant.
  • Pay attention to the big picture, but don’t lose track of the details.
  • Make assumptions that simplify the problem.
  • Express the essential truth using numbers, shapes, or equations.
  • Test how well your model reflects the real world.
  • Draw conclusions. Explain how your solution relates to the original situation.

Continue reading Look Beneath the Surface

Know How to Argue

You may remember, I decided to try my hand at rewriting the Standards for Mathematical Practice into student-friendly language.

My kids loved to argue. Do yours?

Math Tip #3: Know How to Argue.

  • Argue respectfully.
  • Analyze situations.
  • Recognize your own assumptions.
  • Be careful with definitions.
  • Make a guess, then test to see if it’s true.
  • Explain your thoughts. Give evidence for your conclusions.
  • Listen to other people. Ask questions to understand their point of view.
  • Celebrate when someone points out your mistakes. That’s when you learn!

Continue reading Know How to Argue