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Education bits: new PBS maths series, National Numeracy game, etc.

I’m not normally interested in education stuff, but we’ve had a flurry of emails from various people telling us about their projects, and I’ve got nothing else to do today, so I thought I’d round them up.

Infinite Series

No fewer than three people involved in the production of this new series from PBS Digital have emailed us to tell us about it. In the face of that withering PR onslaught, who am I to ignore it?

Infinite Series is a new series of short videos about maths, presented by Cornell PhD student Kelsey Houston-Edwards.  The first episode is all about recent advances in sphere-packing (covered here first a couple of years ago, and then didn’t cover this March)

She does wave her hands around a lot, doesn’t she? That was the genius of Numberphile – having some paper in front of the Clever Person gives them something to do with their hands other than shake them in the air like they just don’t care.

Subscribe on YouTube: PBS Infinite Series. None of the many emails we received said how often new episodes will appear.

Star Dash Studios

The National Numeracy continues to fight the good fight, promoting numeracy across all age groups and sections of society.

They’ve got a new game out called Star Dash Studios, and it’s surprisingly good!

You play a runner on a film set. The majority of the game is, fittingly, running – it’s one of those things where you have to avoid obstacles and pick up coins for as long as possible. Every now and then, you’ll bump into a member of the crew, who asks you to do a job which – and here’s the very cleverly hidden educational content – involves some mental maths.

My favourite task is the make-up artist, who asks you to work out when they should start glamming up an actor so they’re ready in time for shooting. It’s literally a single subtraction, but I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing a nice actress turn into a groady Orc.

Other jobs involve balancing the camera crane, paying extras, or cutting bits of wood for the carpenter. Unless I’m missing something, the tasks that involve approximate measurement are particularly weak: you might be asked to halve a 3m piece of wood, but the measuring stick is only marked every 1m, meaning you have to guess where 1.5m is. I failed at that quite a few times, and I don’t know why.

The maths is really simple, and scattered fairly sparsely between mindless running sections. But it’s all useful, the sort of maths that I wouldn’t think twice about doing, but that a large section of the population wouldn’t be confident with. I don’t know who to recommend Star Dash Studios to – the school-age kids I know are all expected to do much more complicated stuff, and I’m not sure how an adult would react to me suggesting they fix their terrible numeracy skills with a game.

It’s really good though. Well done!

Play: Star Dash Studios is available on iOS and Android from National Numeracy.

Math Snacks

Math Snacks is a collection of animations and minigames from New Mexico State University’s Learning Games Lab.

They’re much more conventional ‘edutainment’ – games that are really pretty terrible when considered as games, each very clearly designed to teach you a certain maths concept. They’ve done a tonne of research about it, which I haven’t read. If you’re a teacher, maybe it’ll look good to you.

Logic Roots

An email in our collective inbox contains the interest-piquing phrase “we feel Aperiodical is one of the coolest maths related website”. It’s from Logic Roots, a company who make educational board games. Titles include Say Cheese and Froggy Fractions (not that Frog Fractions).

If that email wasn’t mail-merged and was in fact heartfelt, thank you Aditi, but sorry – they look much of a muchness to me!

(will not be published)

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