It’s been a while since we’ve seen a MathsJam recap, but having restarted the MathsJam in Leuven after a hiatus, Dieter was too excited not to share what they’d been up to.
The first (re)edition of the Maths Jam in Leuven (Historic university city in Belgium) was a tiny success. I brought a couple of physical copies of the single page worksheet called the MathsJam Meta Shout with $\sim$10 problems from different sub areas of maths which I received earlier from Katie who coordinates MathsJams internationally.
The problems on the sheet were ranging from simple (?) Fold-and-cut fun, Tangrams (geometry), to some number theory, a touch of Linear Algebra and an easy arithmetic problem, solvable with 12-yo-level calculations (i.e. arrange all numbers from 1-15 so that each adjacent numbers sum to a square of a whole number under 16). Nice to see how broad the difficulty space is on the worksheet. Creative problem solving for (nearly) all ages!
On the second to last Tuesday of February 2022 (and hopefully each month from now), we were 3 in total. Which is a good number, I guess, for the Leuven revival anno 2022. Plenty of room to go from there – and a prime number, naturally! :-) Unfortunately we got kicked out of the venue at 21h30 (we started at 20h GMT+1) because we were the only ones left and the venue closes at 22h on Tuesdays (something I didn’t check, nor expected really). But puzzle minded we were, we just overflowed to someone’s home -after a rainy bike intermezzo which refreshened our minds. This didn’t stop us continuing our puzzling until 23h.
One of the attendees (a mathematician by degree) aced all the problems in <3h all the while (attempting) to explain his rationale. It was quite impressive to see! And fun too, because I definitely learned quite some things that night. I was still attempting to fold-and-cut the necessary T-shape with the proper dimensions (3 unit squares on top & 4 from top to bottom) when others had already finished their second tangrams (with some clever area proportion estimates). I forgot to bring my edition of the Set game so we didn’t participate in the online inter-MathsJam set-hunt – being only three we were too eager to just dive into the puzzles first.
After that second to last Tuesday, I tried some of the puzzles I hadn’t completed that night myself and I still haven’t finished them all just yet. (Some of them really make the gears in my brain grind!) I really liked the mix of complexity and variation in type of problems (kudos/thx/merci to all those involved in the making of the Shout).
I’m already eagerly looking forward to the next edition Shout and the next physical meetup by extension (Tuesday 22th of March), and have arranged a new venue for this month in the bar Café Entrepot of the local art center Opek. This seems very fitting for the subtle art of maths and I’ve got the guarantee that they will host us at length, yay! I sure hope to see you there on a second to last Tuesday soon. :-)
While I’m on strike, I’m catching up on stuff I’ve made but never posted about here.
At the Talking Maths in Public conference last August, I was talking with Katie Steckles and Kevin Houston about the order of operations. I think that another one of those ambiguously-written sums had gone round Twitter again. I said it would be good to have a tool where you can write an expression, then change the order of operations and see what happens.
So, on the way home, I wrote one! I’ve called it SAMDOB, which is an anagram of BODMAS.
Please have a play with it. I can imagine that this could be useful to people teaching the order of operations in real life. Let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements.
I’ve put a very clever horse on the internet. He’s called Hans and I’ve made a little video about him.
You can ask Clever Hans your own questions! Go to christianp.github.io/clever-hans and make sure your microphone is turned on. Another proviso: I think only Google Chrome supports the special technology I used to make Hans work. Sorry!
I’ll explain how Hans does his horsey magic below the fold.
My wife’s grandmother is a fearsome character. She’s in her nineties but still has all her wits about her. In fact, she’s got more than her fair share of wits. Whenever we visit her, she hits me with a barrage of questions and puzzles collected from the last several decades of TV quiz shows and newspaper games pages. My worth as a grandson-in-law is directly proportional to how many answers I get right.
One of her favourite modes of attack is the “30 Second Challenge” from the Daily Mail. It looks like this:
You start with the number on the left, then follow the instructions reading right until you get to the answer at the end. It’s one of Grandma’s favourites because it’s very hard to do in your head when she’s just reading it out!
Counting on your fingers may feel natural but it is not innate or universal; methods are culturally transmitted (like number lines) and may have an effect on cognition. A Guardian blog post asks you to “without thinking about it too much, use your hands to count to 10”. How did you do it?
The announcement was much covered in the press, which focused on the ‘back to basics’ approach. The Daily Mail reported that “times tables are to be put back at the heart of the curriculum for children’s first years at school for the first time in decades” with other details reported including learning how to calculate using decimal places and fractions, and dealing with numbers up to ten million.