Pi and Buffon’s Matches

From Numberphile: Dr Tony Padilla’s unique (and low budget) twist on the Buffon’s Needle experiment to learn the true value of Pi.

For a kid-friendly version of this experiment, try throwing food:

Do you have a favorite family activity for celebrating Pi Day? I’d love to hear it!


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A Football Puzzle

[Photo by rdesai.]

The MIT Mathmen got the ball on their own 20-yard line for the last drive of the game. They were down by 2 points, so they needed at least a field goal to win the game.

If quarterback Zeno and his offense advanced the ball halfway to the opposing team’s end zone on each play…

Continue reading A Football Puzzle

How to Start an Argument: The Monty Hall Problem


[Photo by MontyPython.]

You can get a good argument going in almost any group of people with the infamous Monty Hall problem:

Imagine you are on a TV game show, and the host lets you choose between three closed doors. One of the doors hides a fancy sports car, and if you pick that door, you win the car.

You pick door #1.

The host opens door #3 to reveal a goat. Then he gives you a chance to switch your door for the unopened door #2.

Should you switch?

What if you say you’re going to switch, and then the host offers to give you $5,000 instead of whatever is behind door #2?

Try the game for yourself at the Stay or Switch website.

Continue reading How to Start an Argument: The Monty Hall Problem

Math History Tidbits: The Battling Bernoullis

July 27th is Alex’s birthday. She shares it with Johann Bernoulli, an irascible mathematician from the late 17th century. This coincidence intrigued her enough that she wrote a research paper on Johann and his mathematical brother, titled “Jeering Jacob and Jealous Johann.”

Of course, to make the alliteration work, she had to mispronounce Johann’s name — but she figured he kinda deserved that. Read the historical tidbits below to find out why one writer said the Bernoulli brothers were “the kind of people who give arrogance a bad name.”*

Continue reading Math History Tidbits: The Battling Bernoullis

Brighten Up Your Monday with Puzzles

Mondays come every week. Bleh! Here are some puzzles I found this weekend, to brighten up your day…


[Update + Forgetful Waiter Puzzle from singingbanana.]

Continue reading Brighten Up Your Monday with Puzzles