Calculus, 43 chicken McNuggets and DIY math circles: Newsletter October 30

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Blogs and networks

David Cordeiro’s review on Amazon captures a major reason we wrote Moebius Noodles: Adventurous Math for the Playground Crowd:

So often, young kids’ first exposure to math is through arithmetic. This book opens up a whole new world of play as it relates to math and/or math as it relates to play! Either way, kids will learn to love the math they find around them and their curiosity will be ignited.

Please help others discover Moebius Noodles! Review it on Amazon. We are continuing our calculus-inspired local Math Circles. If you are interested in trying these activities with your 4-10 year olds, read the detailed reviews from each session on our blog. InputOutputIteration We like ending each Math Circle meeting with a beautiful mathematical video. Kids enjoy them and frequently describe the math they see as “unreal”, “hypnotic”, “beautiful” and, of course, “weird” and “funny”. A short video is perfect for inviting kids into a mathematical discussion, or to create their own math. That is why we frequently share such “invitations” on our Facebook page. The most recent video was Etereas, the study of dynamic shapes and curves. The ever-changing shapes kept Soodabeh’s 3-year old girl “watching it over and over”! Yelena McManaman’s 6-year old boy wanted to watch the video several times as well. He echoed Maria Droujkova’s FB comment: “It would be cool to make such “laser hoop” in physical space!” Does anyone know how? Picture by (x, why?). For some reason there’s this general misconception that mathematicians do not have a good sense of humor, or none of their jokes are for “regular people”. That’s why we were happy to see this NPR interview about math and mathematicians of the widely popular Simpsons show. And we are collecting a series of Halloween comics and puns on Facebook. Some puzzles are like visual math puns. Have you seen the one about the holes in the T-shirt? Have you tried it? We’ve received quite a few answers – 4, 6, 7, 8. What do you think? Your answer will depend on what you call “holes.” You may need different definitions for buttoning a shirt, taking an IQ test online, or reading a paper on topology! Do you know what a Frobenius number is? Big thanks to Eric Hamilton for sharing this 43 McNuggets video with us. Maria Droujkova recently appeared on The Renegade Writer’s daily newsletter with a simple math tip that can help you write more. Or just do more of anything else you need done. Here it is:

  • Estimate a task’s duration, for example, writing a paragraph, reading an article or putting away toys.
  • Start a stopwatch (in another room, so you don’t keep checking)
  • Finish the task and compare your time to your estimate. Prepare to be surprised.

It was so eye-opening! My estimates were off by orders of magnitude! No wonder I had a hard time getting anything done. I even started doing the time-estimation exercise for little household tasks: emptying the dishwasher, getting potatoes from the garage, hanging a picture… Again, my estimates were wildly off at first. Then I got better, and my life became so much smoother. Measuring similar tasks many times (so you are sure how long they take) makes you brave enough to work in short sprints between other tasks.

Events: Want a Math Circle for your kids?

Maria Droujkova was a distinguished guest at the ReinventED unconference at Black Mountain SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environment). It was another gathering where many people asked if we know of Math Circles for young kids in their area. The bad news is, there are still very few Circles that invite young kids into deep math adventures. The good news is you can organize one! And there are probably local people who will be happy to help. Starting a Math Circle might sound scary, but we are building a support system to make it happen for you. For our next round of open online courses and publications, we need to hear from you. What are the biggest questions, concerns, and obstacles that prevent you from starting your own math circle? Write us at


You are welcome to share the contents of this newsletter online or in print. You can also remix and tweak anything 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 CC BY-NC-SA Talk to you again on November 15th! Moby Snoodles, aka Yelena McManaman

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