“Ivan Moscovich’s Grasshopper” is an excerpt from Task Cards Book #5, available as a digital printable activity guide at my bookstore. Read more about my playful math books here.

Do you want your children to develop the ability to reason creatively and figure out things on their own?

Help kids practice slowing down and taking the time to fully comprehend a math topic or problem-solving situation with these classic tools of learning: See. Wonder. Create.

See: Look carefully at the details of the numbers, shapes, or patterns you see. What are their attributes? How do they relate to each other? Also notice the details of your own mathematical thinking. How do you respond to a tough problem? Which responses are most helpful? Where did you get confused, or what makes you feel discouraged?

Wonder: Ask the journalist’s questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how? Who might need to know about this topic? Where might we see it in the real world? When would things happen this way? What other way might they happen? Why? What if we changed the situation? How might we change it? What would happen then? How might we figure it out?

Create: Create a description, summary, or explanation of what you learned. Make your own related math puzzle, problem, art, poetry, story, game, etc. Or create something totally unrelated, whatever idea may have sparked in your mind.

Math journaling may seem to focus on this third tool, creation. But even with artistic design prompts, we need the first two tools because they lay a solid groundwork to support the child’s imagination.

Are your students doing anything special for Pi Day?

Back when we were homeschooling, my kids and I always felt stir-crazy after two months with no significant break. We needed a day off — and what better way could we spend it than to play math all afternoon?

I love any excuse to celebrate math!

Pi Day is March 14. If you write dates in the month/date format, then 3/14 at 1:59 is about as close as the calendar can get to 3.14159etc.

(Otherwise, you can celebrate Pi Approximation Day on July 22, or 22/7.)

Unfortunately, most of the activities on teacher blogs and Pinterest focus on the pi/pie wordplay or on memorizing the digits. With a bit of digging, however, I found a few puzzles that let us sink our metaphorical teeth into real mathematical meat.

What’s the Big Deal? Why Pi?

In math, symmetry is beautiful, and the most completely symmetric object in the (Euclidean) mathematical plane is the circle. No matter how you turn it, expand it, or shrink it, the circle remains essentially the same.

Every circle you can imagine is the exact image of every other circle there is.

This is not true of other shapes. A rectangle may be short or tall. An ellipse may be fat or slim. A triangle may be squat, or stand upright, or lean off at a drunken angle. But circles are all the same, except for magnification. A circle three inches across is a perfect, point-for-point copy of a circle three miles across, or three millimeters.

What makes a circle so special and beautiful? Any child will tell you, what makes a circle is its roundness. Perfectly smooth and plump, but not too fat.

The definition of a circle is “all the points at a certain distance from the center.” Can you see why this definition forces absolute symmetry, with no pointy sides or bumped-out curves?

One way to express that perfect roundness in numbers is to compare it to the distance across. How many times would you have to walk back and forth across the middle of the circle to make the same distance as one trip around?

The ratio is the same for every circle, no matter which direction you walk.

That’s pi!

Puzzles with Pi

For all ages:

Sarah Carter created this fun variation on the classic Four 4s puzzle for Pi Day:

Using only the digits 3, 1, 4 once in each calculation, how many numbers can you make?

You can use any math you know: add, subtract, multiply, square roots, factorials, etc. You can concatenate the digits, putting them together to make a two-digit or three-digit number.

1. Imagine the Earth as a perfect sphere with a long rope tightly wrapped around the equator. Then increase the length of the rope by 10 feet, and magically lift it off the Earth to float above the equator. Will an ant be able to squeeze under the rope without touching it? What about a cat? A person?

2. If you ride a bicycle over a puddle of water, the wheels will leave wet marks on the road. Obviously, each wheel leaves a periodic pattern. How the two patterns are related? Do they overlap? Does their relative position depend on the length of the puddle? The bicycle? The size of the wheels?

3. Draw a semicircle. Along its diameter draw smaller semicircles (not necessarily the same size) that touch each other. Because there are no spaces in between, the sum of the diameters of the small semicircles must equal the diameter of the large one. What about their perimeter, the sum of their arc lengths?

4. Choose any smallish number N. How can you cut a circular shape into N parts of equal area with lines of equal lengths, using only a straight-edge and compass? Hint: The lines don’t have to be straight.

“Journaling Prompt #165 Painting Blocks 1” is an excerpt from Task Cards Book #4, available as a digital printable activity guide at my bookstore. Read more about my playful math books here.

Do you want your children to develop the ability to reason creatively and figure out things on their own?

Help kids practice slowing down and taking the time to fully comprehend a math topic or problem-solving situation with these classic tools of learning: See. Wonder. Create.

See: Look carefully at the details of the numbers, shapes, or patterns you see. What are their attributes? How do they relate to each other? Also notice the details of your own mathematical thinking. How do you respond to a tough problem? Which responses are most helpful? Where did you get confused, or what makes you feel discouraged?

Wonder: Ask the journalist’s questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how? Who might need to know about this topic? Where might we see it in the real world? When would things happen this way? What other way might they happen? Why? What if we changed the situation? How might we change it? What would happen then? How might we figure it out?

Create: Create a description, summary, or explanation of what you learned. Make your own related math puzzle, problem, art, poetry, story, game, etc. Or create something totally unrelated, whatever idea may have sparked in your mind.

Math journaling may seem to focus on this third tool, creation. But even with artistic design prompts, we need the first two tools because they lay a solid groundwork to support the child’s imagination.

Welcome to the 162nd 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/activity in honor of our 162nd edition. But if you’d rather jump straight to our featured blog posts, click here to see the Table of Contents.

Try This Puzzle/Activity

The number 162 is a palindromic product:

162 = 3 x 3 x 2 x 3 x 3
and 162 = 9 x 2 x 9

How would you define palindromic products?

What other numbers can you find that are palindromic products?

What do you notice about palindromic products?

What questions can you ask?

Make a conjecture about palindromic products. (A conjecture is a statement you think might be true.)

Make another conjecture. How many can you make? Can you think of a way to investigate whether your conjectures are true or false?

“Journaling Prompt #137 Clock Puzzle” is an excerpt from Task Cards Book #3, available as a digital printable activity guide at my bookstore. Read more about my playful math books here.

Do you want your children to develop the ability to reason creatively and figure out things on their own?

Help kids practice slowing down and taking the time to fully comprehend a math topic or problem-solving situation with these classic tools of learning: See. Wonder. Create.

See: Look carefully at the details of the numbers, shapes, or patterns you see. What are their attributes? How do they relate to each other? Also notice the details of your own mathematical thinking. How do you respond to a tough problem? Which responses are most helpful? Where did you get confused, or what makes you feel discouraged?

Wonder: Ask the journalist’s questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how? Who might need to know about this topic? Where might we see it in the real world? When would things happen this way? What other way might they happen? Why? What if we changed the situation? How might we change it? What would happen then? How might we figure it out?

Create: Create a description, summary, or explanation of what you learned. Make your own related math puzzle, problem, art, poetry, story, game, etc. Or create something totally unrelated, whatever idea may have sparked in your mind.

Math journaling may seem to focus on this third tool, creation. But even with artistic design prompts, we need the first two tools because they lay a solid groundwork to support the child’s imagination.

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.

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.

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!

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?

Earlier this week, I sent out my last Playful Math Newsletter to email subscribers.

Most months, my newsletter includes tips and activity ideas for playing math with your kids. But from time to time, I give away a free sample of whatever I’ve been working on — an early draft of something that will eventually show up in one of my books or printable activity guides.

This month’s gift was a Pentomino Puzzle Calendar, a daily adventure in spatial reasoning.

(If you’re a subscriber, be sure to check your inbox!)

For those who haven’t signed up yet, follow this link for more information:

Are you looking for new ways to explore math with your kids?

Would you like an easy, no-prep resource for creative problem-solving, number play, math art, word problems, mini-essays, math poetry, geometry investigations, research projects, and much more?

I’ve just launched a Kickstarter project for people to preorder my new book, 312 Things To Do with a Math Journal. It just might transform your child’s experience of math.

In a math journal, children explore their own ideas about numbers, shapes, and patterns through drawing or writing in response to a question. Journaling teaches them to see with mathematical eyes. Not just to remember what we adults tell them, but to create their own math.

Scroll down the Kickstarter project page to download the free 16-page printable “Math Journaling Sampler” file. It includes one of my all-time favorite math activities.

If you like what you see, I’d love to have your support. The more people we can get to share the project in the early days, the more likely Kickstarter will join in and promote it to new readers.