On the NCTM discussion site myNCTM, there's currently an extended discussion about "Division and multiplication of fractions." As the discussion has continued, I've grown concerned with what I see as a fundamental problem with the way we often introduce multiplication as repeated addition: "Multiplying 4 by 5 means we're combining five groups of four items. … Continue Reading ››

Below (and here) is a collection of four interactive number charts that we first introduced in our NSF-funded Dynamic Number project. Start by asking students to press the four directional arrows and to explore what they do. The right arrow, for example, moves the shaded square to the right, and wraps the square to the next row up … Continue Reading ››

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about the value that students derive from writing mathematics with Sketchpad. The post included an example of a simple Logo iteration, easily implemented in Sketchpad, that produces some very complex and interesting shapes depending on the values of several input parameters. In the … Continue Reading ››

In a prior blog post, I described the pins-and-string approach to drawing an ellipse: Press two pins into a corkboard, place a loop of string around the pins, pull the string tight with a pencil, and trace the pencil tip's path as you pull the pencil around the taut string. Guaranteeing that the traced … Continue Reading ››

Several weeks ago, my friend Martin shared the following probability puzzle with me: Two points are chosen independently and at a random on a stick. The stick is broken at those points to form three smaller sticks. What is the probability these three sticks can form a triangle? This is a classic problem, dating back to … Continue Reading ››

For this year’s Pi Day post, I thought I’d continue our Web Sketchpad (WSP) construction theme. But rather than adapting the visualizations from last year’s Pi Day post to the new construction capabilities, I decided to take a different approach. Some time ago, I built a set of custom tools … Continue Reading ››

Dan Meyer has posted a number of "What Can You Do With This?" activities on his blog. (Activities is probably too prescriptive a word; they're more in the nature of prompts for student thinking, noticing, and wondering.) One of the first was the image below, which he made by superimposing frames from a … Continue Reading ››

The 17th-century Dutch mathematician Frans van Schooten developed "hands-on manipulatives" centuries before the term became popular in math education circles. Below are two images of ellipse-drawing linkages from van Schooten's manuscript, Sive de Organica Conicarum Sectionum in Plano Descriptione, Tractatus (A Treatise on Devices for Drawing Conic Sections). Continue Reading ››

When I was child, I loved to solve the brainteasers in logic puzzle magazines. You probably know the type: Ruth, Phyllis, and Joan each bought a different kind of fruit (orange, apple, pear) and a different vegetable (spinach, kale, carrots) at the supermarket. No one bought both an orange and carrots. Ruth didn't buy an apple or kale. … Continue Reading ››