Today there is no lack of outrage directed at the high-stakes standardized testing that has become so prevalent in the U.S. educational system. A recent opinion piece in The New York Times examines the backlash against the Common Core and lays the blame not on the standards themselves, but rather … Continue Reading ››

In my previous post, I shared Dan Meyer's analysis of what's wrong with computer-based mathematics assessments. Dan focuses his critique on the Khan Academy's eighth-grade online mathematics course, identifying 74% of its assessment questions as focusing on numerical answers or multiple-choice items. This is … Continue Reading ››

As readers of this blog can probably tell, I like puzzles. I especially enjoy taking ordinary mathematical topics that might not seem puzzle worthy and finding ways to inject some challenge, excitement, and mystery into them. This week, I set my sights on isosceles triangles. It's common to encounter isosceles triangles as supporting players in geometric proofs, but … Continue Reading ››

When it comes to simultaneous equations, I like to push the bounds of conventional pedagogical wisdom. In an earlier post, I offered a puzzle in which elementary-age students solve for four unknowns given eight equations. Now, I'd like to present a puzzle that might sound even more audacious: Solving for ten unknowns. … Continue Reading ››

Dan Anderson commented on my Pentaflake post to observe that the pentaflake can also be created by a random process, sometimes called the Chaos Game. In this game you start with an arbitrary point and dilate it toward a target point that's randomly chosen from some set … Continue Reading ››

A couple of days ago I got an email from my long-time friend Geri, who was spending some quality Sketchpad time with her 12-year-old grandson Niels. Geri emailed me for advice because Neils was having some trouble figuring out how to construct a pentaflake. Neither Geri nor Niels had any idea that I'd never even … 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 ››

With the World Cup in our hemisphere, and the US squad having started out with a win over Ghana, my thoughts turned to the mathematics of soccer. My friend Henri Picciotto has a nice page about the shooting angle, the angle within which a shot is on goal, so I thought of … Continue Reading ››

In this guest post, Nate Burchell describes a sketch he uses with his students to explore parametric functions. In this process students work entirely in a graphical world, manipulating graphs directly rather than by way of equations. (Nate teaches in Seoul, Korea, where I enjoyed his family's hospitality when I attended ICME in … Continue Reading ››

In Where Mathematics Comes From, cognitive scientists George Lakoff and Rafael Nuñez assert that our understanding of abstract mathematical concepts relies upon our sensory-motor experiences:

“For the most part, human beings conceptualize abstract concepts in concrete terms, using ideas and modes of reasoning grounded in the sensory-motor system. The mechanism by which the … Continue Reading ››