Get a Weekly Dose of Playful Math

Our leaves haven’t started to turn yet, but summer’s on the wane, farmers are busy with harvest, and the back-to-school rush has calmed down into a daily routine.

But if you’re like me, you keep tweaking that routine, constantly looking for the perfect balance for your family or classroom. I especially love to discover easy ways to add more playful math to our schedule.

So here’s a collection of sites that offer fresh math resources on a weekly or monthly basis throughout the school year.

Which one will you try?

KenKen Classroom

Every week, they’ll email you a set of free KenKen arithmetic puzzles for all ages. As the challenge level subtly shifts week to week, students develop their math and logical thinking skills without even knowing it.

Subscribe ❯

#MathStratChat

Pose an interesting math problem. How can you figure it out? What else could you do? How many different ways can you find? Which strategy do you like best for this problem?

Follow Pam Harris on your favorite social media site to get a new problem every Wednesday.

Choose a Problem ❯

The Parallel Universe

Dr Simon Singh, author of the No. 1 bestseller Fermat’s Last Theorem and The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets has created a set of weekly maths challenges – just 15-30 minutes of interesting, fun and challenging tidbits of mystery and history, activities and oddities, puzzles and problems.

Help students expand their mathematical horizons beyond the school curriculum and build strong mathematical thinking skills. Stretch your brain every week!

Learn More ❯

Numberless Word Problems

As I mentioned yesterday, my new book includes links to online resources to help you play with word problems. So this week, I’m sharing a few of my favorites.

Visit the Kickstarter

Today we examine a time-tested method to help kids reason about math: Leave out the numbers.

First up, there’s Brian Bushart’s numberless problem bank for young students. Then we’ll look at Farrar Williams’s modern revision of a math teaching classic with problems for upper-elementary and middle school students.

Have fun thinking math with your kids!

Word Problem Bank

Word problems are commonplace in mathematics classrooms, and yet they regularly confound students and lead to frustrated teachers saying things like:

  • “They just add all the numbers! It doesn’t matter what the problem says.”
  • “They don’t stop to think! They just start computing as soon as they’re done reading the problem.”

Brian Bushart offers a collection of ready-to-go slide presentations that walk through the steps of making a word problem make sense.

Visit the Site

Math With No Numbers

Discover Farrar Williams’s book Numberless Math Problems: A Modern Update of S.Y. Gillian’s Classic Problems Without Figures, available in ebook or paperback.

Williams writes: “In order to answer the question, they’ll have to explain it, because the problem doesn’t give you anything to calculate with. The only way to answer is by explaining your process. See how sneaky a numberless problem is? It makes students really think about the process of solving the problem.”

Find Out More

“When students face a word problem, they often revert to pulling all the numbers out and “doing something” to them. They want to add, subtract, multiply, or divide them, without really considering which operation is the right one to perform or why.

    “When you don’t have numbers, it sidesteps that problem.

      “For students who freeze up when they see the numbers, this can be a really good way to get them to think about their process with math.”

      —Farrar Williams, Math With No Numbers

      CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by saeed karimi via Unsplash.com.

      How Will You Celebrate this Epic Twosday?

      Tomorrow is Tuesday 2/22/22 (or 22/2/22, if you prefer). What a wonderfully epic Twosday!

      Here’s a puzzle your family or class may enjoy…

      The “All 2s” Challenge

      Use only the digit 2, and try to use as few of them as you can for each calculation. You may use any math operations you know.

      For example:
      0 = 2 − 2
      8 = 2 + 2 + 2 + 2

      • Can you find a way to make 8 using fewer than four 2s?
      • What other numbers can you make?
      • Can you calculate all the numbers from 1–20? 1–100?

      Putting 2 in Perspective

      You might enjoy practicing your math art skills with this 2-digit challenge from Steve Wyborney.

      How many blocks make the digit 2? How did you count them?

      Playful Math #152: Auld Lang Syne Edition

      Welcome to the 152nd edition of the Playful Math Education Blog Carnival — a smorgasbord of delectable tidbits of mathy fun. It’s like a free online magazine devoted to learning, teaching, and playing around with math from preschool to high school.

      Bookmark this post, so you can take your time browsing. There’s so much playful math to enjoy!

      We didn’t have a volunteer host for January, so I’m squeezing this in between other commitments. This is my third no-host-emergency carnival in the last year, which is NOT sustainable. If you’d like to help keep the Playful Math Carnival alive, we desperately need hosts for 2022!

      By tradition, we start the carnival with a puzzle or activity in honor of our 152nd edition. But if you’d rather jump straight to our featured blog posts, click here to see the Table of Contents.

      Math Journaling with Prime Numbers

      Cool facts about 152: The eighth prime number is 19, and 8 × 19 = 152. When you square 152, you get a number that contains all the digits from 0–4. You can make 152 as the sum of eight consecutive even numbers, or as the sum of four consecutive prime numbers.

      But 152 has two real claims to fame:

      • It’s the smallest number that is the sum of the cubes of two distinct odd primes.
      • And it’s the largest known even number you can write as the sum of two primes in exactly four ways.

      So here’s your math investigation prompt:

      • Play around with prime numbers. Explore their powers, their sums, and anything else about them you like.
      • What do you notice? What do you wonder?
      • What’s the most interesting number relationship you can find?

      Continue reading Playful Math #152: Auld Lang Syne Edition

      Advent Math Activity Calendars

      Once again, the delightful Nrich Maths website offers a seasonal selection of activities to encourage your children’s (and your own!) mathematical creativity.

      Click the images below to visit the corresponding December Math Calendar pages.

      For Primary Students

      Here are twenty-four activities for elementary and middle school, one for each day in December during the run-up to Christmas.

      2021 Primary Advent Calendar

      When you get to the Nrich website, click a number to go to that day’s math.

      For Secondary Students

      Here are twenty-four favorite activities for middle and high school, one for each day in December in the run-up to Christmas.

      2021 Secondary Advent Calendar

      When you get to the Nrich website, click a number to go to that day’s math.

      More Holiday Math

      I encourage you also to explore my HUGE holiday math post:

      Or check out these pages for more ideas:

      Have fun playing math with your kids!

      CREDITS: “Peanuts Christmas Panorama” photo [top] by Kevin Dooley via Flicker. (CCBY2.0)

      Playful Math Education Carnival 147

      Welcome to the 147th edition of the Playful Math Education Blog Carnival — a smorgasbord of delectable tidbits of mathy fun. It’s like a free online magazine devoted to learning, teaching, and playing around with math from preschool to high school.

      Bookmark this post, so you can take your time browsing. There’s so much playful math to enjoy!

      By tradition, we start the carnival with a puzzle in honor of our 147th edition. But if you’d rather jump straight to our featured blog posts, click here to see the Table of Contents.

      Continue reading Playful Math Education Carnival 147

      Playful Math Carnival 144: Anniversary Edition

      Welcome to the 144th edition of the Playful Math Education Blog Carnival — a smorgasbord of delectable tidbits of mathy fun. It’s like a free online magazine devoted to learning, teaching, and playing around with math from preschool to high school.

      Bookmark this post, so you can take your time browsing.

      There’s so much playful math to enjoy!

      By tradition, we would start the carnival with a puzzle/activity in honor of our 144th edition. But this time, I want to take a peek back at the history of our carnival.

      But if you’d rather jump straight to our featured blog posts, click here to see the Table of Contents.

      Continue reading Playful Math Carnival 144: Anniversary Edition

      What Is Multiplication, Anyway?

      At some point during the process of teaching multiplication to our children, we really need to come to terms with this question:

      What IS multiplication?

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

      “What’s my answer? It’s not one that society’s going to like. Because society expects — demands, even — that mathematics be concrete, real-world, absolute, having definitive answers.

        I can’t give a definitive answer.

          Multiplication manifests itself in different ways. So maybe the word ‘is’ there is just too absolute. And it’s actually at odds with what mathematicians do.

            Mathematicians do attend to real-world, practical scenarios — by stepping away from them, looking at a bigger picture.”

            —James Tanton, What is Multiplication?

            For Further Study

            You may also enjoy these posts from my blog archive:

            Memorizing the Times Table: A Life Skills Approach

            Continuing on my theme of times table facts, here’s the inimitable James Tanton:

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

            “If our task is to memorize this table, please make it about mathematics — about thinking your way through a challenge, and what can I do to make my life easier.”

            —James Tanton, Making Memorising Multiplication Facts (if one really must) a meaningful Life Skill Lesson

            For Further Study

            You may also enjoy my blog post series about working through the times tables, paying attention to mathematical relationships (and a bit of prealgebra) along the way.

            Times Tables Series

            Click the button to see the whole series. Scroll down to the first post to go through it in order.