Monthly Archives: January 2014

Math Dice Game

My mom bought me this little game called “Math Dice” for Christmas this year.  Have you heard of it?  I hadn’t, and truth be told, I’m not sure my mom realized it was a game she was buying it for me.

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When I opened the package she said “I thought you could do something creative with those dice and your math blog.”  In the days after Christmas, I scooped the unopened box of dice into our “junk drawer” (sorry mom) and rediscovered them this weekend while cleaning.  On the back the of the box were the directions to the “Math Dice Game.”

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This morning I had a little extra time, so I thought I’d give the game try!

Step One: Roll the 12-sided target dice

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Step Two: Roll the three 6-sided scoring dice.  Combine the three scoring dice in anyway to match or come closest to the Target Number.


Ummm, really?  1, 1, 2?  The closest I could get to 80 was 24.  This is what I did:

(1+1+2)! = 4*3*2*1.  Can you get closer?

My second roll of the Target Dice was 36

My Scoring Dice roll was 6, 4, 2

Super easy: (6*(4+2))=36.  Did you get 36 another way?

My last roll was 20

And my scoring dice were 6, 3, 1

I couldn’t get 20.  I could get 18 and 21, but 20 right on the money was a little tricky.  Can you do it?

Much, much more to come about this fun Math Game, with my new Math Dice . . . I’m working on a table of possible Target Number combinations as we speak!


Un-Afraid, Un-intimidated, Un- . . .

You may have heard of this idea of choosing a “word” for the year 2014.  It’s basically a creative way to get you to think about how you want to live your life for the next 365 days.  For example, if you search the blogosphere you’ll come across words like “love,” “intentional,” “thoughtfulness, ” etc., etc.  Today at The Nest, she talks about having an un-word for the year.

I like the idea of having an “un-” word of the year.  For some reason, it appeals to me more than having a word of the year. I’d like the word of the year for this blog to be “Un-afraid” or “Un-intimidated.” (You pick.)

I started this blog because in my experience as a classroom teacher, some students and their parents seemed to be afraid of high school mathematics.  I would have students come into my classroom on the first day of a new semester and declare that they would be happy with a C, because they weren’t a math person.  Or that they were planning to suffer through Pre-Calculus in high school because they certainly didn’t want to have to suffer through mathematics in college.  When I would ask students to tell me something about themselves, inevitably, someone would write in big, bold letters across their paper


Or, they would warn me that even though their mother or father had a career in mathematics they had not inherited their “math gene.” (Which by the way doesn’t exist)

I used to reply to people making these declarations by saying, “Relax, it’s just math . . .”

So here’s the thing, whatever you’re afraid of or intimidated by; try it this year.  And, I’m even going to suggest that when you try it, you say to yourself  “relax, it’s just . . . ”  (In the meantime, I hope you’ll keep visiting this blog . . . because there’s nothing scary here!  We’re just doing a little math!)

Math for High Ability Learners–at the University of Iowa

Just a quick note to let you know that I’m teaching Math for High Ability Learners, a 3 week virtual workshop offered at the University of Iowa beginning January 21.  The workshop is worth 1-hour of graduate or undergraduate credit from the University of Iowa.

To register for the course click here.

The focus of the course will be designing mathematics lessons to meet the needs of both the typical and the high-ability learners in K-12 mathematics classrooms.

To get a better idea of the coursework here’s the syllabus:

MHAL Spring 14–Syllabus.

I hope you’ll join me!


52 Week Reverse Savings Plan

Yesterday I came across this picture taken by one of my former high school students:


I didn’t really know what the 52 week reverse savings plan was, but based on her hashtags and the amount of money she deposited yesterday it seemed reasonable that the goal was to save money each week (there are, after all 52 weeks in a year) and that she would decrease the amount of money she was depositing into her savings account by one dollar each week.  (Turns out I was right).

I can’t be certain, but I think the idea behind this type of savings plan is that you capitalize on the idea that at the beginning of the year, right after you’ve made your New Year’s resolution, you’re more likely to set aside larger amounts of money for the program and as the program continues, you can talk yourself into saving the next week, because its less then you set aside the week before.  I’d venture a guess that the reverse of this 52 week reverse savings plan would not be as effective.

Her photo made me think of a story I used to tell my Pre-Calculus and Algebra II students when we began talking about series of numbers.  The story is this (and I think its loosely based on a true story.  Read it here):

Carl Friedrich Gauss is a famous mathematician, and as is true with other young geniuses, his elementary school teachers found young Carl to be quite annoying and unruly.  Why?  You might ask.  Well, for two reasons really.  First, Carl could finish the work intended to take 30 minutes in 5, thus spending the remaining 25 minutes doing what young children do when they’re bored.  Second, Carl seemed to be able to outsmart his teachers in almost everything.  One day at school the same scenario that had been playing out for days once again played out in young Carl’s classroom–his teacher had given an assignment and Carl had finished in a fraction of the time the assignment was meant to take.  As he began to distract and disrupt his other classmates, his teacher had a brilliant idea!  She called Carl up to her desk and told him to add all of the integers from 1 to 100.

Imagine his teacher’s surprise (and probably frustration!) when Carl came back to her desk a mere minute later with the correct answer!

When questioned about what he had done he laid out the following pattern for the teacher:

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 10.50.55 AM


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But now I’ve added the numbers from 1-100 twice, so to account for this I really need to write:

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 10.52.33 AM

Isn’t that clever?

And, can you tell how this relates to the Instagram pic posted by one of my former students?  It seems to me that it would be reasonable to ask how much money she will have saved by the end of 2014.  One way we could answer this question would be to add money deposited each week:


But, that seems a little tedious and thanks to Carl Gauss we can do this more efficiently.  Namely:

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 10.55.55 AM

(Similar to my M&M posts (here, here, and here), I smell a series (ha!-get it, series?) of posts related to this topic. For example, how many weeks does it take to save half of the money from the 52 week challenge?  If my student is depositing this money into a savings account, then she’s earning interest.  If she leaves the money in the account until she goes to college in two years, how much money will she have?  Is the amount really all that different if she only saves for half the year?  Or every other week? . . . the possibilities are limitless (ha! ha!-get it, limitless?)) (Check out the second post in the series here.)

Brrrr . . .

If you live in the middle part of the country, then you know its been super, super cold lately.  In Iowa City the high today was subzero and the windchill dipped to -40 degrees sometime this afternoon.  Lots and lots and people have been posting about the cold temps lately and the great thing about having lots of math teacher friends on Facebook, is that sometimes you get math teacher friends who are clever enough to post about the cold weather and mathematics simultaneously.  I wish I could say that these were my Facebook posts but they’re not.  I’m sharing them with you, so you can enjoy them also!  Wherever you are, I hope you’re warm.  Keep your fingers crossed for temps that creep above zero tomorrow!

First clever Facebook post:

“The windchill today is supposed to reach -40.  What’s the significance of a temperature of -40?”

Second clever Facebook post:

“If you’re a little chilly these next couple of days, try standing in the corner of the room . . . its about 90 degrees.”