Math Club: Counting 101

[Fature photo above by ThunderChild tm.]

The last couple of weeks, in Math Club, we’ve been learning to count. My new set of MathCounts students have never heard of combinatorics, so we started at the very beginning:

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Substitute Teacher Experiments with Combinatorics


Photo by peigianlong.

Here is a puzzle from Just a Substitute Teacher:

Lesson plan entry: “Hand out worksheet packets and have students staple before starting. They know what to do.”

Sounds simple enough! Four numbered sheets, eight total pages, printed front and back. What could go wrong?

Do you know how many possible combinations four pieces of paper can be arranged for stapling?

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“Monday Math Madness” link

math puzzle
Photo by Behdad Esfahbod.

I have been busy with the end of Math Olympiad season and getting ready for the MathCounts state test this weekend, but I wanted to post this link before it’s too late. You have until Sunday evening to send in your answer to the first…

Monday Math Madness puzzle

Combinatorics is my weak area, but I gave it a try. How about you?

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Math Contest Tip Sheets

Most of our math contest preparation consists of working lots and lots of old test problems. Occasionally, however, I put together a tip sheet summarizing a topic that my students have trouble remembering.

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Puzzle: Random Blocks

Red block puzzle

In the first section of George Lenchner’s Creative Problem Solving in School Mathematics, right after his obligatory obeisance to George Polya (see the third quote here), Lechner poses this problem. If you have seen it before, be patient — his point was much more than simply counting blocks.

A wooden cube that measures 3 cm along each edge is painted red. The painted cube is then cut into 1-cm cubes as shown above. How many of the 1-cm cubes do not have red paint on any face?

And then he challenges us as teachers:

Do you have any ideas for extending the problem?
If so, then jot them down.

This is strategically placed at the end of a right-hand page, and I was able to resist turning to read on. I came up with a list of 15 other questions that could have been asked — some of which will be used in future Alexandria Jones stories. Lechner wrote only seven elementary-level problems, and yet his list had at least two questions that I had not considered. How many can you come up with?

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Confession: I Am Not Good at Math

I want to tell you a story. Everyone likes a story, right? But at the heart of my story lies a confession that I am afraid will shock many readers. People assume that because I teach math, blog about math, give advice about math on internet forums, and present workshops about teaching math — because I do all this, I must be good at math.

Apply logic to that statement. The conclusion simply isn’t valid. …

Update: This post has moved.

Click here to read the new, expanded version


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