Tuesday, March 1, 2016

March Mathness Blog Hop


Welcome to everyone who's coming here via the Hoagie's "March Mathness" blog hop. I imagine you have some interest in mathematics especially around your children's individual progress. You're looking for interesting resources to enrich at home. Perhaps you're worried about the school curriculum and are considering after schooling etc. In many ways this was the position I found  myself in a few years ago. I'm deeply interested in math and wanted to pass that on. So as my own children began entering school I started discovering what resources existed in my backyard.

And in many ways what I found was that this is a golden age for mathematics education and enrichment.  One of the earliest discoveries I made was a local Math Circle offering enrichment on the weekends, Then there was my introduction to Numberphile videos.  These were great hits with my sons. More formally, there's the innovative curriculum being developed by the Art of Problem Solving. If you look around you can find amazing stories about what kids are experimenting with and discovering.  What summarizes the moment really well for me is a recent article in the Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/03/the-math-revolution/426855/

This is where  I was two years ago when I made the transition from a family oriented to group oriented focus.  What I realized then was that I could leverage my own passion and affect more kids. It was definitely a bit scary to step out of my comfort zone in front of 15 unknown fifth graders: first impressions. However, I believe it was and still is ultimately very rewarding. As I've said elsewhere, its tremendously gratifying seeing kids get excited about a concept or making a breakthrough or even just engaging enthusiastically with an activity. There's power in creating a peer group of kids who all are interested in the same subject.  For me this goes full circle back to my own fourth and fifth grade experiences where a key teacher made me realize that I too loved to do Math. I'm hoping at least a few readers take a moment and ask themselves the question "Can I do this too?" You don't have to be perfect or an expert on everything. Just like Math itself, running a club is quite creative and can go many directions. It also doesn't have to start very large. But a small effort can have a huge impact on your community.

Getting Started

I inherited my group: background which in many ways made things easier. If you're starting from scratch there are actually a few great places with some checklists.

  1. One of our local high schools has this manual: http://www.wastudentmath.org/content/clubs/plan/StarterPackComprehensive.pdf
  2. Math Circle in a box (one of the first documents I read):  http://www.mathcircles.org/GettingStartedForNewOrganizers_WhatIsAMathCircle_CircleInABox   
  3. Natural math has a really cool quiz to help clarify what your goals are: http://naturalmath.com/math-circles-1001-leaders-course/
In my mind, these are the actually the easy parts. Things become harder when you actually start meeting and going out to lead a group and try planning out activities. That's the area I mostly focus on in this blog.

Here's a few pointers into some of my past writing:
  1. Resource Page: This is where I collect other sites I've found useful: Resources. At the bottom of the page I've embedded links to my activity maps for the year (which are *mostly* up to date)
  2. My mega post on  what I learned over the first year: http://mymathclub.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-year-in-review.html. I'm a big fan of improvement through reflection.
  3. Looking back through the blog most of the posts with a date in the title reflect a log of what I did at that session and how it went. I try to focus on both mechanics. I.e. this took 20 minutes,  evaluation of how well the activities went and thoughts on what I could personally improve on. 

Some goodies for everyone

Finally here are three of my favorite discoveries from this year so far.

  1. The no-rectangles problem: here  and here
  2. Match stick (tooth stick in our case) puzzles: here
  3. "This is not  a Maths book"   here and here

I am joining conversation on math enrichment and math education with Hoagies Gifted Education Page. Check out Hoagies Gifted website and like Hoagies Gifted on Facebook!


  1. Thank you for these resources. I was just talking about math circles with a colleague the other day. She will love this.

  2. Great post and resources -- thank you for helping other parents interested in starting a math club!