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.

      Problem Solving with James Tanton

      At the back of my new Word Problems from Literature book, I’ve included an appendix with links to recommended online resources.

      Check in on the Kickstarter

      So I thought this week, I’d share some of my favorites with you. First up: Problem Solving Tips from James Tanton.

      You may know Tanton from the popular Exploding Dots and other activities at the Global Math Project website. But he’s been busy for decades sharing the delight and the beauty of the subject. He currently serves as the Mathematician-at-Large for the Mathematical Association of America.

      Read on to discover several of Tanton’s best problem-solving tips for middle school and older students.

      Have fun exploring math with your kids!

      How to Think like a School Math Genius

      In this 4-video series, Tanton presents five key principles for brilliant mathematical thinking, along with loads and loads of examples to explain what he means by each of them. A call for parents and teachers to be mindful of the life thinking we should foster, encourage, promote, embrace and reward — even in a math class!

      Watch the Videos

      Two Key — but Ignored —Steps to Solving Any Math Problem

      How many degrees in a Martian circle?
      Every challenge or problem we encounter in mathematics (or life!) elicits a human response. The dryness of textbooks and worksheets in the school world might suggest otherwise, but connecting with one’s emotions is fundamental and vital for success — and of course, joy — in doing mathematics.

      Read the Article

      MAA AMC Curriculum Inspirations

      Essays and videos showing how to approach math puzzles in a way that a) is relevant and connected to the curriculum, and b) revels in deep, joyous, mulling and flailing, reflection, intellectual play and extension, insight, and grand mathematical delight.

      Scroll down and start with the Ten Problem-Solving Strategies.

      Download the Puzzles

      Think Puzzles and Think Cool Math

      Here are some essays illustrating astounding tidbits of mathematical delight. And here are some purely visual puzzles to surprise.

      Explore and Enjoy

      “The true joy in mathematics, the true hook that compels mathematicians to devote their careers to the subject, comes from a sense of boundless wonder induced by the subject.

        “There is transcendental beauty, there are deep and intriguing connections, there are surprises and rewards, and there is play and creativity.

          “Mathematics has very little to do with crunching numbers. Mathematics is a landscape of ideas and wonders.”

          —James Tanton

          CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by Ian Stauffer via Unsplash.com.

          6th Grade Minimalist Math Curriculum

          For details on using a Minimalist Math Curriculum, see my earlier post How To Make Time for Exploration.

          If you’re teaching or homeschooling students in 6th grade, here’s the new minimalist curriculum link:

          As I mentioned in my earlier post, a minimalist curriculum can be a great way to free up time for playing math games and exploring enrichment activities (like these).

          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

          Prealgebra & Geometry Games Now Available

          Publication Day!

          Prealgebra & Geometry: Math Games for Middle School hits the online bookstores today.

          Check Your Favorite Store

          You can prepare your children for high school math by playing with positive and negative integers, number properties, mixed operations, algebraic functions, coordinate geometry, and more. Prealgebra & Geometry features 41 kid-tested games, offering a variety of challenges for students in 4–9th grades and beyond.

          A true understanding of mathematics requires more than the ability to memorize procedures. This book helps your children learn to think mathematically, giving them a strong foundation for future learning.

          And don’t worry if you’ve forgotten all the math you learned in school. I’ve included plenty of definitions and explanations throughout the book. It’s like having a painless math refresher course as you play.

          Continue reading Prealgebra & Geometry Games Now Available

          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