Way To Go, Boys!

Math competition
Photo by ccarlstead.

Congratulations, math team! All your hard work paid off, and I hope you enjoyed yourselves thoroughly. Of course, as C. S. Lewis wrote:

…if you do one good deed, your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.

C. S. Lewis
The Horse and His Boy

Now it’s time to practice for the state level in March. You can find practice problems online at:

Preparation Drills for MATHCOUNTS
The “Go Figure!” math challenge
[ACK! MathCounts has re-written their website. The old link is no longer any good, but I haven’t yet found the new location for this game.]

And give the new interactive Countdown Round game a try:

AoPS For The Win!

Continue reading Way To Go, Boys!

More Fun with Hexa-Trex

Hexa-trex turtle logo

My elementary Math Club students had fun practicing their math facts and “out of the box” thinking with Hexa-Trex puzzles. The object of Hexa-Trex is to find a path through all the number and operation tiles to make a true equation. The “Easy” puzzles are just the right level for my 4th-5th grade students, although they get stumped whenever the equations require Order of Operations. One girl enjoyed the puzzles enough to take our extra pages home for her dad.

Hexa-Trex puzzles were featured in the October issue of Games magazine, and now you can enjoy Hexa-Trex away from the computer with Bogusia Gierus‘s new book, The First Book of Hexa-Trex Puzzles. If you are thinking ahead to Christmas (can it be that time already?!), and if you have a puzzle lover in the family, this little book would make a fun stocking-stuffer.

Quotations XVI: Back to the Blackboard

Classes are back in session at our homeschool co-op, so I am again collecting short quotes for the blackboard. Here are the ones I used in September:

Any fool can know. The point is to understand.

Albert Einstein

Life without geometry is pointless.


You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way.

Marvin Minsky

Quotations XIII: Mathematics Education Is Much More Complicated than You Expected

Registrations have been rolling in for our homeschool co-op, and the most popular classes are full already. Math doesn’t seem to be a “most popular” class. I can’t imagine why! Still, many of my students from last year are coming back for another go, and I am getting spill-over from the science class waiting list.

Anyway, I have started planning in earnest for our fall session. As usual, I look to those wiser than myself for inspiration…

Many teachers are concerned about the amount of material they must cover in a course. One cynic suggested a formula: since, he said, students on the average remember only about 40% of what you tell them, the thing to do is to cram into each course 250% of what you hope will stick.

Paul Halmos

Continue reading Quotations XIII: Mathematics Education Is Much More Complicated than You Expected

How To Start a Homeschool Math Club

From a recent e-mail:

“Hello! I am on the board of a homeschool co-op. We have had requests for a math club and wondered if you have any tips for starting one. We service children from K-10th and would need to try to meet the needs of as many ages as possible.”

There are several ways you might organize a homeschool math club, depending on the students you have and on your goals. I think you would have to split the students by age groups — it is very hard to keep that wide of a range of students interested. Then decide whether you want an activity-oriented club or a more academic focus.

When I started my first math club, I raided the math shelves in the children’s section at my library (510-519) for anything that interested me. I figured that if an activity didn’t interest me, I couldn’t make it fun for the kids. Over the years we have done a variety of games, puzzles, craft projects, and more — always looking for something that was NOT like whatever the kids would be doing in their textbooks at home.

Continue reading How To Start a Homeschool Math Club

How Can We Teach Problem Solving?

We continue to plan our co-op courses for next fall. Some of the classes I had hoped for will not happen, and my children are going to have to make some tough choices between the remaining topics. Unfortunately, they have not yet mastered the ability to be in two classrooms at once.

I have three math courses to plan, and I think I will focus as much as I can on teaching math through problems, even at the elementary level. These are once-a-week enrichment classes for homeschooled students, so I assume they have a “normal” math program at home. I want to introduce a few topics they might not otherwise see, to deepen their understanding of the topics they have studied, and to give them a taste of that “Aha!” feeling that comes from conquering a challenging problem. Has anybody done something like this, and can you recommend some good resources?

Continue reading How Can We Teach Problem Solving?

How To Harness Metacognitive Decision-Making

To organize a homeschool co-op requires an awesome team of innovative planners. The e-mails keep flying as we attempt to generate dynamic problem-solving strategies. Our goal for the fall semester is to orchestrate learning intensive experiences that will encourage real-world critical thinking in our upper-level students, while at the same time maximizing developmentally- appropriate enrichment for our preschool and elementary communities.

Now you, too, can talk just like a school system bureaucrat with this handy-dandy Educational Jargon Generator. Have fun!

[Hat tip: Matthew Tabor.]

Spring, the Season for Planning…

Oops! No Alexandria Jones post this week. My writing time has been overtaken by the monster school supply catalog (“Mom, haven’t you ordered my books yet?!“) and by yesterday’s co-op planning meeting and today’s 13 (so far!) follow up emails.

Planning a homeschool co-op is a little bit like juggling kittens. No matter how careful you are, something is going to get scratched. Several of the classes I was hoping for did not draw enough interest in the public polling, but of those that remain, I would like my students to study:

dd#1 — drama, photography, sewing, Spanish, writing, guitar, and biology lab
ds — drama, photography, writing, Spanish, guitar, PE/health, and maybe biology
dd#2 — art, sewing, cooking, music, science, and maybe PE/health
[Wouldn’t you know it, not a single one of my kids wants to take any of their mom’s math classes. 🙂 ]

We only offer three class periods. And dd#1 plans to teach karate during one of those time slots.

Well, whatever else works or doesn’t work out, I sure hope we can get the lady who took these pictures to teach that photography class.

Skit: The Handshake Problem

[Feature photo above by Tobias Wolter (CC-BY-SA-3.0) via Wikimedia Commons.]

If seven people meet at a party, and each person shakes the hand of everyone else exactly once, how many handshakes are there in all?

In general, if n people meet and shake hands all around, how many handshakes will there be?

Our homeschool co-op held an end-of-semester assembly. Each class was supposed to demonstrate something they had learned. I threatened to hand out a ten question pop quiz on integer arithmetic, but instead my pre-algebra students presented this skit. You may adjust the script to fit the available number of players.

Continue reading Skit: The Handshake Problem

Story Problem Challenge Revisited

Well, I didn’t get any takers with the last story problem challenge. But school is in full session now, and we’re doing story problems in Math Club this Friday, so I thought I’d try again.

Here’s the challenge: Can you and your students make up some original math problems?

In Math Club, we always start by reading part of the book Math by Kids for inspiration. I can’t print those stories here, however, because of copyright rules, so I’ll share some of the stories my past students have made, arranged in roughly increasing order of difficulty. After you solve a couple of these problems with your children, encourage them to try making some of their own.

And please, share their gems with us!


The problems below are now available as a printable handout: Story Problem Challenge.

Continue reading Story Problem Challenge Revisited