Math Circle Activity Database

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Bubbling Cauldrons


Place our numbers into the cauldrons in ascending order – you can choose which cauldron each one goes in. However, if two numbers in one cauldron add up to a third number in that same cauldron, they bubble up and cause an explosion! This means that all the numbers, leave the cauldrons, and you must start all over again.

Our goal is to find the largest number we can place in our cauldrons without them exploding… do you think you’re up for this daunting task?

Flipping Pancakes


The Pancake Problem, first posed in 1975, is a sorting problem with connections to computer science and DNA rearrangements, which leads to discussions of algorithms, sequences, and the usefulness of approximations and bounds.

The original problem was first posed by mathematician Jacob Goodman under the pen name “Harry Dweighter” (read it quickly) in 1975, and it has delighted math enthusiasts (including undergraduate Bill Gates) ever since!

Humans, Zombies, & Other Problems Crossing the River


A town faces an epidemic of zombies! Luckily, the virus has just started to spread and the infected are able to stave off their hunger for human brains… for now. In fact, they’re willing to work alongside the remaining humans to help them get across a river to safety. Can you get all the humans and zombies across safely?

I Walk the Line


Your regular commute begins at your house and ends at your office at the corner of 5th street and 6th avenue. You have been making this trip for years, but you are the restless (or adventurous) type, and you try to take a different route each day. At some point, you start to wonder how long it will take you to try all of the routes.

Oh, did I mention that you have to avoid the zombies?

Mind Reading With Math


For the Math Mind Reading Trick, you’ll need a volunteer who’s willing to have their mind read. The person performing the trick holds out the four cards and askes their volunteer to pick a number (whole numbers only, no fractions allowed!) between 1 and 15 and keep it a secret. Next, the mind-reader asks the volunteer if their number is on the cards one-by-one. The volunteer answers the questions with yes or no answers, and with some magic and a little math, the mind-reader figures out their number!

Mondrian Art Puzzles


Start with an nxn grid – you pick the size. Now, split the grid up into (at least two) any-sized squares and rectangles, as long as you don’t repeat the same sized square or the same sized rectangle twice. That’s it! Pretty simple, right? But you might be wondering: “What’s the point?” That’s where it gets a little more tricky. The goal is to find the lowest possible score of whatever n-sized grid you choose. To “score” your Mondrian art, take the area of the largest rectangle or square and subtract from that the area of the smallest.

Queen’s Move


Students will explore a game between two players moving a chess Queen from place to place on a square grid. The Queen may move any number of spaces to the left, any number of spaces downward, and any number of spaces on the downward-left pointing diagonal. Each player takes turns using these moves. Whoever gets the Queen to the bottom-left square first wins!

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