Session Style: Manipulatives

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Mathematical Practices
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  • MP1 - Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. (83)
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Balance Beans

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If you start with some beans on a seesaw and you’re given certain additional beans to place on the seesaw, can you do it so the seesaw balances?

In this activity, students start by trying to solve various challenges involving different arrangements of beans on the seesaw and then design their own challenges. Next, they try to predict which arrangements will make the seesaw balance and which ones won’t (and why!).

Rational Numbers

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Developed as part of the Math Circles of Inquiry project, this module is an introductory activity for rational numbers, likely aligned with Grade 7. Students will be given five points on a number line and will be asked to estimate the values of each in a 3-part task and explain their reasoning. The activity is designed to have students then fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide these rational numbers and justify the placement of their solutions on the number line.

Systems of Linear Equations

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Developed as part of the Math Circles of Inquiry project, this short module explores a graphical solution to a system of equations. Students answer questions about lemonade sales and physically stand on the coordinates of a giant grid in order to see that plotting two equations on the same set of axes can give useful information. They will also gain experience in linear equation formats other than slope-intercept form and explore what the intersection points of the lines in a system of equations means.

Locked Out: A Breakout Box Session for Your Circle

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Escape Rooms and “Bomb Disposal” activities are growing in popularity as a form of team building and entertainment. This session blends the two ideas to create a cooperative math activity where the challenge is to solve math problems whose solutions generate combinations to open a locked box. The math problems can be selected to fit any audience, and the activity appeals to problem solvers of all ages.

Match or No Match

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In this session, participants will explore the Match-No Match game: two players each draw one chip out of a bag – if the color of the chips match Player 1 wins, if not Player 2 wins. Under what conditions is this a fair game? How do we know? How can we construct a fair game? What variations of this game are possible? Participants will explore these questions to determine how this game connects to other mathematical problems.

Mathematical Games

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This session includes 15 games using manipulatives or paper and pencil. The goal is to decide which one of the two players has a winning strategy. To solve a game means to find a winning, or a non-losing, strategy for one of the players. An answer must include a detailed description of such strategy, and you have to explain what the winning player should do so that this player wins regardless of his opponent’s moves.

These games may be presented as a single circle session, or individually in a circle or classroom.

Mathematical Magic for Muggles

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Presented are several easy-to-perform feats that suggest supernatural powers such as telepathy, “seeing fingers,” predicting the future, photographic memory, etc. Each trick uses simple mathematical ideas that allow information to flow effortlessly and sneakily, among them simple, efficient “coding” parity and other invariants symmetry probability One can approach these activities in many ways. At first, you may want to figure out HOW to do a trick. Then, you want to know WHY it works. Finally, you should strive to understand REALLY WHY it works: is there a simple theme or principle behind your possibly complex explanation? Look for simple and...