Math Journals: Save the Cat!

Puck is concerned that some people don’t understand the idea behind the Math Rebel journals. He decided to create a journaling prompt so your children can experience the joy of creative reasoning (and save cats from their mortal enemy!)

Journaling is a great way to help children learn to see with mathematical eyes. Not just to remember what we tell them, but to create their own math.

Many people know it’s important for students to do hands-on experiments in science. But Puck realized that most adults don’t know how to do a math experiment.

So Puck created this Cat Escape puzzle…

Continue reading Math Journals: Save the Cat!

Math Journals and Creative Reasoning

Learning math requires more than mastering number facts and memorizing rules. At its heart, math is a way of thinking.

So more than anything else, we need to teach our kids to think mathematically. To make sense of math concepts and persevere in figuring things out. To notice the numbers, shapes, and patterns all around. To wonder about big ideas.

Journaling is a great way to help children learn to see with mathematical eyes. Not just to remember what we tell them, but to create their own math.

Get started with creative math journaling today. Visit the Make 100 Math Rebels Kickstarter page to download the free “How To Be a Math Rebel” sampler pictured above, which contains one of my all-time favorite math prompts.

Make 100 Math Rebels

It doesn’t matter whether your students are homeschooled or in a classroom, distance learning or in person. Everyone can enjoy the experience of playing around with math.

Puzzle from the free Math Rebel Sampler.

Continue reading Math Journals and Creative Reasoning

Happy Mathy Hanukkah

Hiding among all the other winter-themed activity ideas, I found a few posts for those who celebrate the Festival of Lights.

For More Holiday Math

CREDITS: Candle photo (top) by Enrique Macias via Unsplash.com.

Mathy Christmas Cards

I always wait too long to put cards in the mail. Maybe these creative beauties will inspire me to get started right away?

For More Holiday Math

CREDITS: Reindeer photo (top) by Norman Tsui 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.]

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.

Which One Will You Try?

We’ve made the first two Geometric Coloring Designs books permanently free.

[The Let’s Play Math Sampler is also permafree, though it’s an ebook, so it’s on a different virtual shelf. You can find it under the “Free Books” section.]

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:

Math Facts and Number Play:

Problem-Solving Skills:

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…

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.]