Playing With Math: Newsletter July 1, 2014

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Hi, I am Moby Snoodles, and this is news about Natural Math.

Send me your questions, comments, and stories of math adventures at

Moby Snoodles

Playing With Math

Playing With Math Cover

We at Natural Math are at it again: producing and publishing an innovative, playful, Creative Commons book, crowdsourced and crowdfunded. Playing With Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and Passionate Teachers is edited by our Sue VanHattum, with more than fifty people contributing stories, art, puzzles, and lots of math love. You can read more details and contribute to the campaign at IncitED.

This is a much anticipated book, about five years in the making. That’s why there are a lot of excited reviews, and more than half of the target amount collected in just the first week of the campaign. I would like to share quotes from a few of my favorite reviews:

To know Sue is to know that she loves teaching and learning mathematics, and she loves writing, therefore this book — this work of consummate love — has to happen. Playing With Math is really a collection of love stories because the authors, including yours truly, want to share something we’re pretty crazy about. It’s the stuff we do beyond the regular school day — we play with math after hours, at the dinner table, on a napkin at the coffee shop, with our own child or with a neighbor’s child, at a family picnic, with our in-laws whom we don’t even like. – Fawn Nguyen, math teacher

“Math-play adventures.” What an inviting phrase. What a promise, what a fundamentally different, and desperately needed vision of what we could be teaching when we teach math! If play is important to you, if learning, if your children are important, this book could restore your hope, or at least reassure you that there are alternatives, effective, tested, and meaningfully playful alternatives, alternatives that you and your children’s teachers can put into place, immediately. – Bernard De Koven, researcher and author

Each chapter of Playing With Math is written by someone not very different from you: parents who have formed kids’ math clubs, homeschoolers who foster math enthusiasm, and teachers who use math in unexpected ways. The book includes puzzles, games, and other activities as well as a wealth of online resources. It also offers something more vital. The real-life experiences shared by the book’s 30 authors enlarge our vision of the role math can play in our lives, one that’s joyfully creative as well as purposeful. – Laura Grace Weldon, author and GeekMom editor

Crowdfund Playing With Math

1001 circles: your math adventures

Bill M. from Chicago emailed about trying out different symmetry activities with his twins: “My two 4-year old girls did not really dig the “symmetry miming exercise” [from the Moebius Noodles book – Moby], but I found something that they enjoyed: folding up paper towels (by squares, by triangles) and dipping each corner into colored liquid. We used water and food coloring like tie-dye. The result was colorful and symmetrical. We could play with symmetry across the various axes and try folding into various shapes to see how it would, literally, unfold. A tip: use lots of food coloring to make rich colors. ”

I love to see kids laughing out loud because they are happy about their math! Check out the cool 3D mesh climbing structure in the background, for body-scale math adventures.

Stephen Taylor is an enthusiastic dad who happens to be an engineer and loves math. Read his guest post for our blog, sharing detailed know-how about running Zometool workshops. Want to try leading your first group event? A one-time, free-building workshop for your children’s friends or classmates is an excellent format. Stephen writes: “I chose a workshop format of “discovery learning” in which just enough guidance is provided to the kids to stimulate their own thinking and creating. I wanted the setting to be very “real world”, like an architect’s studio or a scientist’s lab.”

Naveen posted a question to our Ask and Tell forum: “I had asked a open question to my 7 year old son and asked him to make a rectangle with 48 pieces of snapping cubes. He came up with lots of fun ways and really enjoyed it. Would anyone have suggestions for open challenges with the snap cubes?Answer Naveen’s question, or see what ideas others shared.


You are welcome to share the contents of this newsletter online or in print.


Talk to you soon! Moby Snoodles, aka Dr. Maria Droujkova

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