Problem Solving for the Young, the Very Young, and the Young at Heart: Newsletter June 15, 2013

Share Button


I am Moby Snoodles, and this is a special issue of my newsletter. You are invited to participate in our next book-making effort. It is also a course, and a citizen science project. For sign-up information, email me at:

Moby Snoodles


Problem Solving for the Young, the Very Young, and the Young at Heart

Join a cozy mini-MOOC with Dr. James Tanton, Dr. Maria Droujkova, and Yelena McManaman!

James Tanton

Take the course, make a book, contribute to citizen science

The term “problem solving” sounds scary. Who wants problems? Why do we want to subject ourselves and youngsters to problems?

The word “problem” comes from the word “probe” meaning “inquiry.” Inquiry is a much more interesting and friendlier idea. Rather than “attack a problem that has been given to us” let us “accept an invitation to inquire into and explore an interesting opportunity.” Even very young, preverbal children excel at inquiring and at investigating the world around them.

Will this curiosity extend to math learning? Yes, as long as the inquiries remain playful!

Math Club Large Group

This course will help you to support the joyful intellectual play of youngsters in the context of upper-level mathematics. Over three weeks we will discuss the ten key problem solving techniques and show how they can be of relevance and help to the very young. Each technique comes with an interesting query to think about. As the adult leader, you supply scaffolding where students stand while they construct their solutions. In other words, techniques are not only for you to read, but also for you to then translate for the children!

But wait, there is more! This course is a pilot study for a citizen science project for mathematics education. How can we adapt materials for each learner’s unique needs? How can we pick and choose what math to do when? We are excited to invite you to contribute to original scientific research, and to discover new ways of helping children learn!

Course Syllabus

This course is for parents, leaders of math playgroups, and math clubs – with children of any age. The goal is to adapt the same set of materials to different levels and interests. We will publish the materials as a professionally edited, Creative Commons book, with all course members’ names or aliases as contributors. You can see an example at

The sign-up tasks will be available on July 1, 2013. You can expect to spend about two hours a week on the course. Each week, you will plan for the next week, tell brief stories of what you did this week, and start analyzing other people’s stories. We will provide more details and guidance on the sign-up site.

Math Club With MariaD

Before July 7: sign-up and preparation

  • Sign-up interview (Skype or Google+): What are your math dreams for your kids?
  • Prepare micro-plans: problems 1, 2, 3

Week 1, July 8-14

  • Do and report: stories about problems 1, 2, 3
  • Prepare micro-plans: problems 4, 5, 6
  • Sort and analyze the data in reports

Week 2, July 15-21

  • Do and report: problems 4, 5, 6
  • Prepare micro-plans: problems 7, 8, 9, 10
  • Sort and analyze the data in reports

Week 3, July 22-28

  • Do and report: problems 7, 8, 9, 10
  • Sort and analyze the data in reports

Exit question

  • What did you and others do to adapt problems?


Participant pledge

We expect each participant to adapt the ten problems, to try them with kids, to report the results online, and to help analyze the reports. You can share you stories by text, video, or audio.

Frequently Asked Questions


Does my child need to count well, remember times tables, and so on?

Not at all. There are no prerequisites. You can adjust problems for very young kids, but also to the high school level.


What resources will I need for this class?

You need the internet to participate, and usual household objects (paper, markers, toys) to do math. We will provide free, open media to support the course.

Teen Problem Solving

Can I get a certificate after completing this course?

Yes, you will receive a digital certificate of participation from the course authors and our mascot Moby Snoodles, the math-loving whale.


What is citizen science?

Citizen science is research conducted by large groups of non-professionals, together with some scientists. In this course, participants will contribute to a pilot study in mathematics education. We will tackle a tough question: How can mathematical topics be adapted to radically different students, mixed-age groups, and everybody’s diverse interests?

What’s a mini-MOOC?

A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an online course with interactive participation and open access. Our course uses all our favorite design principles of MOOCs: openness, aggregating free information, and remixing everybody’s ideas. In addition, we aim for a connected, personal experience for every participant. That’s why we only announce our courses in highly relevant communities, talk to every participant as a part of the sign-up, and provide much personal support along the way. We also keep the course short enough for everybody to be able to participate in all the activities. To summarize, our course is a cozy, personal, short and sweet MOOC.


What is it all about?

  • Make your own math: DIY, agency, self-regulation, exploration
  • Play and let the kids play freely: spaces for exploration, self-regulation, agency, research of what kids would do
  • Not all who wander are lost: connections; sorting, classifying and mapping the big picture of math, big and deep ideas, inquiry, connections
  • Be the littlest kid: child leadership, child agency, adults as fellow explorers
  • Make and share stories: continuity, adding valor and adventure to kids’ actions, research and reflection on the data in the stories, helping others learn from your experiences


How do I sign up?



You are welcome to share the contents of this newsletter online or in print. You can also remix and tweak anything here as you wish, as long as you share your creations on the same terms. Please credit

More formally, we distribute all Moebius Noodles content under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license: CC BY-NC-SA



Talk to you again on June 30th!

Moby Snoodles, aka Dr. Maria Droujkova

Like It? Share It.
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Posterous
  • RSS
  • Tumblr
Posted in Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Captcha loading...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.