Mathematical Practice: MP7 - Look for and make use of structure.

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  • MP1 - Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. (1)
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  • MP7 - Look for and make use of structure. (1)
  • MP8 - Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. (1)

Folding Perfect Thirds


Imagine you’re packing for a trip, and you’re planning on bringing your favorite tie. It’s too long to fit in your suitcase, even after folding it in half. You would fold it into fourths, but you don’t want all of those creases ruining your tie. You’ve decided folding it into thirds will be the perfect length to fit in your suitcase without noticeable creases on your tie. However, you don’t have a ruler or any means of making sure your tie is folded into perfect thirds. Is there anything you can do about this?

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!

Mondrian Art Puzzles


You’re Mondrian’s mathematical boss. Instead of allowing Mondrian to randomly draw rectangles and colors -you lay out requirements: 1) Mondrian must cover an N by N canvas entirely with rectangles. 2) Every rectangle in the painting must have different dimensions. 3) Mondrian must use as few colors as possible, and rectangles with the same color cannot touch one another.

Under these rules, Mondrian must try to minimize his score. A painting’s score is the area of its largest rectangle minus the area of its smallest rectangle.

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!

The Jug Band


“Using just that 5 pint jug and that there 12 pint jug, measure me 1 pint of water!” Is this possible with just the two jugs? What about a 7 pint jug and 17 pint jug? Or p pint and q pint jugs?

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!

Supreme Court Handshakes


Developed as part of the Math Circles of Inquiry project, this session is a good introduction to the 8th grade or Algebra Math curriculum using inquiry based instruction. Students are asked to use their problem solving skills in order to determine the relationship between the number of Supreme Court justices and handshakes that occur when each pair shakes hands exactly once. Students will begin exploring with simpler numbers and work up to creating an algebraic expression to represent the function. This lesson allows for multiple representations by using a table, list, circle diagram, matrix and manipulatives.

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