“When I grew up in the Soviet Union, all we used for math was grid paper. Grid paper leads to discovery.” This is how Tatiana Shubin, San Jose State University, begins her lesson demonstrating the myriad of wonderful math questions arising from a simple sheet of grid paper. Attempting to count all squares of any size on a limited grid will require participants to persevere, organize their thinking and construct viable arguments.
Supporting Material: Facilitator Guides
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?
A teacher challenges students to a game. The rules are explained as the game progresses. The player with the highest total wins! Students then play against each other. Afterwards, while analyzing the game, prime, composite, perfect, deficient, and abundant numbers are discovered and defined. Students again play the game using the strategies they determined.
In a professional development video, teachers focus on the topic of number systems and number theory using a game setting to investigate the properties of prime, composite, abundant, deficient, and perfect numbers. This video can be used in conjunction with The Factor Game lesson plan.
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!
The rules are simple: you want to place the sheep on the board so that the wolves can’t eat them. A wolf can eat a sheep if it has a direct path to it – or is in same row, column, or diagonal as that sheep. Can you place all your wolves and sheep on an nxn grid so all the sheep are safe?
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.
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!
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?
In 2005, while researching the expected value for lottery tickets in various states, a group of MIT students won millions of dollars in the Massachusetts $2 Cash Winfall drawing. Do you want to know how they did it? This teacher led activity starts with a lottery, explores expected value, and finally ties into finite projective geometries.