Connecting Mathematicians of All Ages

# Topic: Combinatorics

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### Grid Power

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“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.

### Flipping Pancakes

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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!

### Wolves and Sheep

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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?

### I Walk the Line

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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?

### Winning the Lottery, An Expected Value Mystery

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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.

### Queen’s Move

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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

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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.

### Measuring Up: “Perfect” Rulers

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Is it possible to measure all possible integer lengths on a ruler without marking every integer on that ruler? This is an engaging and challenging problem for all. Beautiful mathematics can be revealed while delving deeper into this seemingly easy question.

### Practical Probability: Casino Odds and Sucker Bets

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Gambling casinos are there to make money, so in almost every instance, the games you can bet on will, in the long run, make money for the casino. However, to make people gamble, it is to the casino’s advantage to make the bets appear to be “fair bets,” or even advantageous to the gambler. Similarly, “sucker bets” are propositions that look advantageous to one person but are really biased in favor of the other. We’ll examine what is meant by a fair or biased bet and look in detail at some casino games and sucker bets. Various problems can be...

### Tic-Tac-Toe 2.0

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The game of Tic-Tac-Toe has roots going back centuries. Grid-style game boards have been found in Ancient Egypt, during the Roman Empire, and in our current age on restaurant placemats. Multiple avenues of exploration are possible with this simple children’s game. A related game called “Gobblet Gobblers” takes Tic-Tac-Toe to a whole new level!

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