Did You Get Your Playful Math?

Mary Everest Boole first wrote about string art in 1904.
Mary Everest Boole first wrote about string art in her 1904 book, The preparation of the child for science.

My February playful math newsletter went out yesterday morning to all subscribers.

This month’s issue featured a couple of string art projects for Valentine’s Day, the cardioid curve, make-your-own math art, and the link between string art and calculus.

If you didn’t see it, check your Updates or Promotions tab (in Gmail) or your Spam folder. And to make sure you get all the future newsletters, add denise (dot) gaskins (at) tabletopacademypress (dotcom) to your contacts or address book.

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As a Bonus: You’ll receive my 8-week email series “Playful Math for Families” and be one of the first to hear about any new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions

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.

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.

Have a Mathematical Thanksgiving Dinner

With the pandemic still raging, most of us will have to adapt our normal holiday traditions to fit the new reality. We may not be able to have a big family gathering (except over Zoom), but we can still enjoy great food.

So for those of you who are planning ahead, here is a mathematician’s menu for next week’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Optimal Potatoes

Green Bean Matherole

Borromean Onion Rings

Thanksgiving Turduckenen-duckenen

And for Dessert

May I suggest some of Don Cohen’s Infinite Cake?

Click here for cake

CREDITS: “Thankful” photo (top) by Pro Church Media via Unsplash.com. Food videos by mathemusician/doodler Vi Hart.

Happy Hamilton Day (Belated)

While searching for posts to add to the Playful Math Carnival, I stumbled on a new-to-me math holiday.

Hamilton Day celebrates mathematical discovery — that “Aha!” moment when your eyes are opened and you see something new.

Or something new-to-you. That’s worth celebrating, too.

History of Hamilton Day

Irish mathematician William R. Hamilton was struggling with a tough math problem in October, 1843. It had him stumped. Then on the 16th, as he walked along Dublin’s Royal Canal with his wife, inspiration struck.

He suddenly realized he could look at the problem from a new direction, and that would make everything fall into place.

“And here there dawned on me the notion that we must admit, in some sense, a fourth dimension of space for the purpose of calculating with triples … An electric circuit seemed to close, and a spark flashed forth.”

—Sir William Rowan Hamilton

In one of the most famous acts of vandalism in math history, Hamilton pulled out a knife and scratched his new equation into the stone of the Broome Bridge: i² = j² = k² = ijk = -1.

Also by Hamilton

“Who would not rather have the fame of Archimedes than that of his conqueror Marcellus?”

—Sir William Rowan Hamilton
quoted in H. Eves, Mathematical Circles Revisited

Why Celebrate Hamilton Day

“So there’s much to celebrate on Hamilton Day. Beyond its utility, we can appreciate mathematics as a human endeavor, with struggles and setbacks and triumphs. We can highlight the opportunity math affords for daring, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking.

“Hamilton Day could, in other words, pivot away from Pi Day’s gluttony and memorization, neither of which is part of mathematics, toward the intellectual freedom and drama that are.”

— Katharine Merow
Celebrate Hamilton Day, a Better Mathematical Holiday

How Will You Celebrate?

  • Learn about a new-to-you math topic.
  • Work on a tough math problem.
  • Think about different ways to do things.
  • Try a nonstandard approach.
  • Talk about how it feels when you learn something new and it finally makes sense.

I’ve penciled Hamilton Day (October 16) into my calendar for next year.

How about you?

I’d love to hear your ideas for celebrating math! Please share in the comments section below.

CREDITS: Commemorative plaque photo (top) by Cone83, CC BY-SA 4.0. Hamilton portrait by Unknown artist and “Death of Archimedes” by Thomas Degeorge, public domain. All via Wikimedia Commons.

2020 Mathematics Game — Join the Fun!

New Year’s Day

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.

Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time.

However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.

— Mark Twain
Letter to Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, Jan. 1863
quoted in Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 1: 1851-1864 (affiliate link)

If you’d like to enjoy a mathematical New Year’s Resolution, may I recommend Evelyn Lamb’s Math Reading Challenge? I haven’t decided if I’m going to follow along, but it does look like fun.

Meanwhile, I do resolve to challenge myself with more math puzzles this year. Would you like to join me?

Here’s a great way to start: with the 2020 Mathematics Game!

Click here to continue reading.

Holiday Math Puzzles and Activities for Christmas, Winter Break

Hapollonian Holidays from my Math Circle kids, and best wishes for a grace-filled holiday season.
Hapollonian Holiday Greetings from my co-op class kids, and best wishes for a grace-filled holiday season.

Do you know of any great math-related seasonal games, crafts, or activities I missed? Please add them to the comments section below.

As you scroll through the links below, you find several puzzle graphics from the wonderful Visual Patterns website.

Use them as conversation-starters with your kids: What do you notice? How does each pattern grow?

For older students: Can you write a formula to describe how each pattern? What will it look at stage 43?

Pattern #7, Trees

A Bit of Fun

Setting the mood: 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 enjoy the fun of learning something new.

Advent Math Activity Calendars

Every year, some of my favorite websites offer a seasonal selection of activities to encourage your children’s (and your own!) mathematical creativity, one for each day in the run-up to Christmas.

UPDATE: Check out the 2020 math calendars.

Pattern #9, Snowflakes

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

  • Clarissa (@c0mplexnumber) demonstrates how to make beautiful, challenging origami snowflakes. She recommends beginners try the first few folds — which create a pretty cool design on their own. Let it Snow…
Pattern #20, Helmets

Happy Hanukkah

Pattern #30, from John Golden, Squares

Hands-on Holidays

Pattern #197, from Stephanie Bowyer, Symbols

Following Yonder Star

Pattern #132, from Math Curmudgeon, Diagonals

Mathy Christmas Cards

Pattern #98, Centers are collinear, Fraction of the original circle shaded

Santa Claus Is Coming

Pattern #8, Penguins

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Pattern #152, from John Golden, Circles

Puzzles Under the Tree

  • Unfortunately, the holidays come smack in the middle of flu season. Did you come down with The Grinch Bug?
Pattern #52, Cubes
  • Speaking of Christmas carols, the Christmas Price Index shows the current cost for one set of each of the gifts given in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I wonder what’s the cumulative cost of all the gifts, when you count each repetition in the song?

Christmas Adventures with Alexandria Jones

Alexandria Jones and her family are fictional characters from my old Mathematical Adventures newsletter. Their stories appear sporadically as I find time to transcribe them from the back-issues. You can find them all on this blog page.

Here are all the Alexandria Jones stories Christmas stories, with activity and craft ideas…

Pattern #174, from Katie Gates, Squares

What About Worksheets?

Do you need to keep your kids busy and work in a bit of math practice? Try these Christmas word problems:

Or visit the sites below for worksheets to cover all ages:

Pattern #28, Surface area

CREDITS: “Circle Packing” feature graphic (top) by fdecomite via Flickr (CC BY 2.0). Picture pattern puzzles from Visual Patterns website.

Advent Math Activity Calendars

Once again, some of my favorite websites offer a seasonal selection of activities to encourage your children’s (and your own!) mathematical creativity, one for each day in the run-up to Christmas.

Including an especially tough Advent meta-puzzle for truly determined problem-solvers…

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

For Primary Students

Easier activities for elementary and middle school.

A problem or game that uses dice for each day in the run up to Christmas.

2018 Primary Advent Calendar

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

For Secondary Students

Activities for middle and high school.

Most of the tasks require dotty paper or circles which you can find on the Nrich Printable Resources page.

2018 Secondary Advent Calendar

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

For Teens and Adults

“Because sometimes, in the midst of all the family fun, it’s good to put your headphones in and retreat into a word of your own, this year’s advent calendar brings you some of our favourite Plus podcasts. From the secrets of the Universe to the maths of football stadiums, there should be something there for everyone. Happy listening and happy Christmas from the Plus team!”

When you get to the +Plus Magazine website, you can tell which links are live because they jump to a larger size when you tap or mouse over the picture.

Plus Advent Calendar 2018

One link becomes live each day — so come back tomorrow and discover something new!

Christmas Meta-Puzzle

Or try your hand at the biggest mathematical mystery of them all — and save Christmas!

“It’s nearly Christmas and something terrible has happened: one of Santa’s five helpers — Jo Ranger, Fred Metcalfe, Kip Urples, Meg Reeny, and Bob Luey — has stolen all the presents during the North Pole’s annual Sevenstival. You need to find the culprit before Christmas is ruined for everyone.”

Christmas Logic Puzzle

If you solve all the clues and enter the answer on Christmas day, you may win a present for yourself, too.

Still More Mathy Fun

Colleen Young has collected several more holiday math calendars — enough to keep your kids playing and learning well into the New Year. Take a look!

Mathematical Advent Calendars

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