Pondering Large Numbers

[Feature photo above by Paolo Camera (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr.]

Half of our students were missing from this month’s homeschool teen math circle, but I challenged the three who did show up to wrap their brains around some large numbers. Human intuition serves us well for the numbers we normally deal with from day to day, but it has a hard time with numbers outside our experience. We did a simple yet fascinating activity.

First, draw a line across a page of your notebook. Label one end of the line $20 (the amount of money I had in my purse), and mark the other end as $1 trillion (rough estimate of the US government’s yearly overspending, the annual deficit):

large-numbers-baseline

  • Where on that line do you think $1 million would be?

Go ahead, try it! The activity has a much greater impact when you really do it, rather than just reading. Don’t try to over-think this, just mark wherever it feels right to you.

The kids were NOT eager to commit themselves, but I waited in silence until everyone made a mark.

  • Okay, now, where do you think $1 billion would be?

This was a bit easier. Once they had committed to a place for a million, they went about that much farther down the line to mark a billion.

Continue reading Pondering Large Numbers

Math Playtime With Blocks

Feature video by Stuart Jeckel via youtube.

DO Try This at Home

And ask questions!


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Happy Math Storytelling Day

Feature photo (above) by L. Marie. Math comic by davidd. Both via flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Math-ter and Commander

Hooray for September 25th — it’s Math Storytelling Day!

Celebrate Math Storytelling Day by making up and sharing math stories. Everyone loves a story, so this is a great way to motivate your children to play around with math. What might a math story involve? Patterns, logic, history, puzzles, relationships, fictional characters, … and yes, even numbers.

For inspiration, visit:

Have you and your children created any math stories? We’d love to hear! Please share your links in the comments section below.

Continue reading Happy Math Storytelling Day

Math Teachers at Play #66

[Feature photo above by Franz & P via flickr. Route 66 sign by Sam Howzit via flickr. (CC BY 2.0)]
Route 66 Sign

Welcome to the Math Teachers At Play blog carnival — which is not just for math teachers! If you like to learn new things and play around with ideas, you are sure to find something of interest.

By tradition, we start the carnival with a couple of puzzles in honor of our 66th edition.

Let the mathematical fun begin!

Puzzle 1

how crazy 66

Our first puzzle is based on one of my favorite playsheets from the Miquon Math workbook series. Fill each shape with an expression that equals the target number. Can you make some cool, creative math?

Click the image to download the pdf playsheet set: one page has the target number 66, and a second page is blank so you can set your own target number.

Continue reading Math Teachers at Play #66

Summer Problem Solving for the Young, the Very Young, and the Young at Heart

Here is yet another wonderful summer math opportunity for homeschoolers or anyone who works with kids: a free, 3-week mini-course on math problem solving for all ages.

The course is being organized by Dr. James Tanton, Dr. Maria Droujkova, and Yelena McManaman. The course participants include families, math clubs, playgroups, and other small circles casually exploring adventurous mathematics with kids of any age.

Would you like to join us? Check out the mpsMOOC13 home page for instructions. The deadline for joining is July 7 July 3.

And then the real fun begins!

Continue reading Summer Problem Solving for the Young, the Very Young, and the Young at Heart

Happy Square of a Square Day

3-19 Happy Square of a Square Day sign

In Response To

Make your own “Happy Math Day” sign:

Here’s a fun activity for any age that will encourage your children to play with numbers:


howtosolveproblemsWant to help your kids learn math? Claim your free 24-page problem-solving booklet, and sign up to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions.

2013 Mathematics Game

feature photo above by Alan Klim via flickr

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

For many homeschoolers, January is the time to assess our progress and make a few New Semester’s Resolutions. This year, we resolve to challenge ourselves to more math puzzles. Would you like to join us? Pump up your mental muscles with the 2013 Mathematics Game!

Continue reading 2013 Mathematics Game

Rate × Time = Distance Problems

I love how Richard Rusczyk explains math problems. It’s a new school year, and that means it’s time for new MathCounts Mini videos. Woohoo!

Continue reading Rate × Time = Distance Problems

Skit: Knights and Knaves Logic Puzzles

photo by puuikibeach via flickr

Our homeschool co-op held an end-of-semester assembly. Each class was supposed to demonstrate something they had learned. I planned to set up a static display showing some of our projects, like the fractal pop-up card and the game of Nim, but the students voted to do a skit based on the logic puzzles of Raymond Smullyan.

We had a small class (only four students), but you can easily divide up the lines make room for more players. We created signs from half-sheets of poster board with each native’s line on front and whether she was a knight or knave on the flip side. In the course of a skit, there isn’t enough time to really think through the puzzles, so the audience had to vote based on first impressions — which gave us a fair showing of all opinions on each puzzle.

Continue reading Skit: Knights and Knaves Logic Puzzles

Purple Comet! Math Meet

The 2012 Purple Comet! Math Meet is a free, on-line, team competition for middle and high school students around the world. Every team needs an adult supervisor. Homeschoolers are welcome and should register under the Mixed Team category.

Register now. The contest will run Tuesday, April 17, through Thursday, April 26, 2012. That gives your team plenty of time for practice sessions between now and then.


howtosolveproblemsWant to help your kids learn math? Claim your free 24-page problem-solving booklet, and sign up to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions.