The Experience of Mathematical Thinking

The full quote:

For children (and adults) who have always considered math to be memorized rules, the experience of mathematical thinking — though difficult at first — can be as refreshing as a hike in pure mountain air.

As in hiking, so in math: It’s not the destination that matters, but the journey. Yes, you could give your students a rule that would help them get correct answers, but that’s no better than riding a helicopter up the mountain.

Slow down and take the time necessary to let your children fully explore these concepts.

— Denise Gaskins
Prealgebra & Geometry: Math Games for Middle School

Almost here! Watch for an exciting announcement tomorrow…

CREDIT: “On the edge” photo by Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash.

A Gentle Reminder

Shaista is a homeschooling mom who read an advance copy of my new book. Her response:

“I want to shout from the rooftops about it. It’s a wonderful read on the importance of play in maths — and a gentle reminder for those of us who know but feel pressured to make sure educational standards are met … and in the process of ticking off boxes we sometimes suck the joy out of maths, instead of realizing that it’s a journey to enjoy.”

— Shaista

Prealgebra & Geometry: Math Games for Middle School is coming soon! Watch for an exciting announcement next week…

PHOTO CREDIT: “Outdoors kids” courtesy of Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Playing Math with A.A. Milne

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn’t any
Other stair
Quite like
It.
I’m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top;
So this is the stair
Where
I always
Stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:
“It isn’t really
Anywhere!
It’s somewhere else
Instead!”

—A.A. Milne
When We Were Very Young (affiliate link, see details)

The Stair-Counting Game

Play on any set of stairs where you won’t get in other people’s way. Start at the halfway step.

  • Roll one 6-sided die. Go up that number of steps.
  • Roll again. This time, go down that number of steps.
  • Keep rolling the die, alternating movements up and down.

Will you ever escape the stairs?

Fill the Stairs Game

Each player draws 11 stair steps (counting the top and bottom floors) on a piece of paper. Write zero on your middle step.

Remove the face cards and jokers from a deck of playing cards. Mix the remaining cards face down in a fishing pond.

  • On your turn, choose one card. Red cards are negative numbers, and black cards are positive.
  • Write the number from your card on one of your stair steps.
  • Then mix your card back into the pond.
  • The first player to fill their stairs with numbers in order wins the game.

The numbers have to grow as you go up the stairs and get smaller going down. But you can skip numbers. For instance, you could put +2 on the stair above zero, if you like. Or you could write −4 two steps below zero, leaving only one blank in between.

If you draw a card that will not fit on your stairs, you lose that turn. Mix the card back into the pond without writing anything.

If you make a mistake — like putting +9 too close to the middle, so there’s no way to fill the higher stairs — you can use a turn to erase one number on your stairs. You don’t get to choose a new card on the same turn as erasing a number.

Fill the Stairs Variations

Help young students understand negative numbers. A stairway makes an excellent number line visual.

Download the place value version (no negative numbers) of the stairway game from Math for Love.

Or discover variations for all grade levels at Math Hombre blog. I especially like John’s Decimal Point Pickle game. And the exponential version looks like a fun challenge.

Your Turn

Do you play stairway math? Please tell us your games and variations in the comment section below.

Or share other ideas for playing math with children. I love to hear new ways to play!

Morning Coffee – 4 Nov 2019

Morning Coffee image

One of the best ways we can help our children learn mathematics (or anything else) is to always be learning ourselves.

Here are a few stories to read with your Monday morning coffee:

“Games aren’t just about practice and fluency. My favorite games create opportunities for learning, too. They spark discourse, promote the use of strategies, and allow students to dig into the mathematics.”

—Jenna Laib
The Simple-but-High-Leverage Game Collection: Making Games Routine

  • Have you read Pam Harris’s Development of Mathematical Reasoning series? Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Well worth your time!

“The teacher’s role is to help students change the way they think, in increasingly sophisticated ways. The goal is not answers. The goal is development. We don’t need students who can just answer a multiplication question, we need students who can reason multiplicatively.”

—Pam Harris
The Development of Mathematical Reasoning

CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by Kira auf der Heide via Unsplash. “Morning Coffee” post format inspired by Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader.

New Math Board Game: MULTI on Kickstarter

If the math classic The Product Game got together with Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe, this game would be their child.

According to game creator Federico Chialvo, “MULTI is a fantastic 2-player math game designed with the joy of mathematics in mind. This game is so fun your kids won’t want to stop playing, and neither will you!”

Originally designed for students in 2nd-5th grade, MULTI helps children develop fluency with multiplication facts and the relationship between multiples and factors. Even better, the rich strategy and gameplay can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

If you want to play math with an elementary-age child, check out the Kickstarter:

Click Here for the MULTI Game on Kickstarter

“Mathematics is a polarizing topic! For some, it is a fountain of wonder, beauty, and intrigue. For others, it is a cold dark thing, something to be avoided or even feared. Yet, my experience has shown that everyone can find joy in mathematics when it is presented in the right way.”

—Federico Chialvo
MULTI – Math Board Game – Fun For All Ages!

Morning Coffee – 28 Oct 2019

Morning Coffee image

One of the best ways we can help our children learn mathematics (or anything else) is to always be learning ourselves.

Here are a few stories to enjoy with your Monday morning coffee:

“When you’re working every day, you’re not thinking, ‘What impact is this going to have on the world?’ You’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this right.’”

—Gladys West
quoted in Dr. Gladys West: The Black Woman Behind GPS Technology

  • I like to keep a quick game in reserve for spare time in my homeschool co-op class. Kent Haines explains Sprouts and suggests ways to launch math discussions.

“I don’t get irritated by these mistakes. I desperately wait for such mistakes. Yes! Because I think it is a golden opportunity for the teacher to spot a student thinking this way. It presents just the right context and time for driving an enriching mathematical conversation in the whole class.”

—Rupesh Gesota
Part-2: Re-learning and Enjoying Polynomial Division with students

“To teach students SSS congruence without pointing out why this is so interesting is harmful for two reasons. First of all, this is an amazing result. It is the our job to point out amazing results! Triangles are rigid figures in a way that other polygons are not.”

—Rachel Chou
Teaching the Distributive Property

CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by Kira auf der Heide via Unsplash. “Morning Coffee” post format inspired by Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader.