Thursday, January 31, 2013

Accumulated Math Moments

Do you ever have days, or even weeks, where things just don't go the way you imagine they should?  It's been one of those weeks for us.  When things got challenging this week I started to despair about whether we were doing 'enough' school and I'd still be feeling that way if I hadn't remembered to take a look at the photos on my camera roll.

Somehow, along the way, small moments of math started adding up...

First, I happened upon this book at the library over the weekend.  G is for Googol by David M. Schwartz is the absolute best math overview book I have read.  Ever.  I think it's the combination of humor and the way he works in multiple, connected concepts into each entry.

 G Is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book

The entry on Moebius strips, for example, included a little lesson on topology and inspired us to try out a few things, with my daughter exclaiming "right now!" while I ran to get the paper, tape and scissors.   On the left is the Moebius strip and, moving clockwise, what the strip looks like after being cut down the center, then cut in half again, and then the result of not cutting around the strip down the center and instead cutting one third from the edge.

"R is for Rhombicosidodecahedron" (kid loved learning how to say that) "N is for Nature" (a great re-introduction to Fibonacci numbers) "K is for Konigsberg".  We've been reading three or four entries a day at meals.  Each one has something interesting to think about or do or introduces a concept with a lot of passion and verve.  My recent favorite is the entry under V, which is perhaps the only math book I've found so far to include 'book readers', 't.v. watchers' and 'underwear poem-writers' in the same Venn Diagram.  I think Mr. Schwartz really knows the mind of a child. 

Then there was a day when we just had to head outside, take a trip to the children's science museum, whatever, just get out of the house.  While we were waiting for it to open we hung around outside. "Hey!"  I said, "What's the very fastest way you can figure out how many small squares there are?"  She wasted no time counting ten across, ten down and skip counting by tens.  "100!"

"How many squares make the diagonal?"

This one she initiated all on her own.

While we were at the science museum I found an introductory set of Tantrix for about $6.00.  It said for ages 8 and up, but my seven-year-old (who is not a puzzle person, or so I thought) really loved the structured challenge of creating loops of increasing size and turned out to be a whiz!  The instructions said the approximate time for solving the 10-piece red loop was 20+ minutes, but she did it in under five.  I love the hexagon pieces ("T is for Tessellate" thank you very much!). 

Have you ever seen Vi Hart's videos on spirals?  I'd seen them before but, on a whim, showed them to the kid who was impressed enough to sit through all three on the subject.  Afterwards, she rustled up some permanent markers, drew the spirals first (which inverts Vi's process) and drew in the petals following that pattern.  I think it approximated  pretty well what Vi Hart was trying to do.

So, for a week where we were at loose ends and lost causes, it sure seems like we actually have something to show for showing up.  Thank goodness for my camera.


  1. Did your daughter draw those last two flowers? (They're gorgeous!)

    Malke, it sounds like she's doing so well with math, I can't see any reason not to take a week off once in a while.

    I might get the Googol book for my son. (I don't think I have it...)

  2. Yeah, those are all hers. Sharpies & highlighters (ala Vi Hart) make great pictures!

    Yes, run, don't walk to get that book. I cannot speak highly enough of it. It's a great conversation/inquiry starter and just a plain old great read. :-)


Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!


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