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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How to Solve Math Problems

Update

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I’ve expanded this blog post into a 16-page booklet. You can get your free copy here, along with some writing tips for young authors-in-training:

That’s a Tough One!

What can you do when you are stumped? Too many students sit and stare at the page, waiting for inspiration to strike — and when the solution doesn’t crack their heads open and step out, fully formed, they complain: “Math is too hard!”

So this year I have given my Math Club students a couple of mini-posters to put up on the wall above their desk, or wherever they do their math homework. The first gives four questions to ask yourself as you think through a math problem, and the second is a list of problem-solving strategies.

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Egyptian Math in Hieroglyphs

Pyramids clip artEgyptians wrote in hieroglyphs, a type of picture writing, and in hieratics, which were like a cursive form of hieroglyphs.

Hieroglyphs came first. They were carved in the stone walls of temples and tombs, written on monuments, and used to decorate furniture. But they were a nuisance for scribes, who simplified the pictures and slurred some lines together when they wrote in ink on paper-like papyrus. This hieratic writing — like some people’s cursive today — can be hard to read, so we are only using hieroglyphic numbers on this blog.

Download this page from my old newsletter, and try your hand at translating some Egyptian hieroglyphs:

Then try writing some hieroglyphic calculations of your own.

Edited to add: The answers to these puzzles (and more) are now posted here.

To Be Continued…

Read all the posts from the September/October 1998 issue of my Mathematical Adventures of Alexandria Jones newsletter.

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Twaddle-Free Math Handouts

For anyone who can’t make it to Peoria this weekend but is still interested in my math workshops — and just in case we run out of handouts at said workshop — I am posting my math handouts here. These are pdf files, so if you have a sluggish dial-up connection like ours (ah, the joys of rural life!), you can right-click and save each file as a download.

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