Reblog: The Handshake Problem

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

Seven years ago, 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 voted to perform a skit.

I hope you enjoy this “Throw-back Thursday” blast from the Let’s Play Math! blog archives:

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?


1-3 narrators
7 friends (non-speaking parts, adjust to fit your group)


Each friend will need a sheet of paper with a number written on it big and bold enough to be read by the audience. The numbers needed are 0, 1, 2, 3, … up to one less than the number of friends. Each friend keeps his paper in a pocket until needed.

[Click here to go read Skit: The Handshake Problem.]

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Math Teachers at Play #70

800px-Brauchtum_gesteck_70_1[Feature photo above by David Reimann via Bridges 2013 Gallery. Number 70 (right) from Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0).]

Do you enjoy math? I hope so! If not, browsing this post just may change your mind.

Welcome to the 70th edition of the Math Teachers At Play math education blog carnival — a smorgasbord of 42+ links to bloggers all around the internet who have great ideas for learning, teaching, and playing around with math from preschool to pre-college. Let the mathematical fun begin!

By tradition, we start the carnival with a puzzle in honor of our 70th edition. But if you would like to jump straight to our featured blog posts, click here to see the Table of Contents.

Click here to continue reading.

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

A Pretty Math Problem?

As we were doing Buddy Math (taking turns through the homework exercises) today, my daughter said, “Oooo! I want to do this one. It’s pretty!”


She has always loved seeing patterns in math. I remember once, years ago, when she insisted that we change the problems on a worksheet to make the answers come out symmetrical. 🙂

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Logic Puzzle: Imbalance Problems

Kitten and I have been slogging through the decimals chapter in AoPS Pre-Algebra. She hates arithmetic, so I tried skipping ahead to the algebra puzzle in the exercises, but she refused to be taken in: a decimal problem with an x in it is still a decimal problem.

So I let her off early and pointed her toward these logical “algebra” puzzles instead:

Puzzle by Paul Salomon

Continue reading Logic Puzzle: Imbalance Problems

Quotable: Why Study Algebra?


[Photo by AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker via flickr.]

One reason to study algebra: because it’s a building block. And just as it was really hard at first to get those blocks to do what you wanted them to do, so also it can be really hard at first to get algebra to work. But if you persevere, who knows what you might build someday?

Algebra is the beginning of a journey that gives you the skills to solve more complex problems.

So, try not to think of Algebra as a boring list of rules and procedures to memorize. Consider algebra as a gateway to exploring the world around us all.

— Jason Gibson
Why Study Algebra?

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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