Ying and the Magic Turtle by Sue Looney is a new story book for children ages 5 and up. It is about magic squares, and is inspired by an ancient Chinese legend. Natural Math hopes to publish it in November, in time for the winter holiday gifts. We are crowdfunding it on Kickstarter. For practical purposes, crowdfunding works like a preorder. Math friends who contribute to the campaign also receive extra prizes, and connect with the book’s author and crew.
There are some recent additions to the campaign page. Check out the new variable prize, where supporters can choose the number of books they want. Thank you for the suggestion, Tina G! There are also new answers to several questions, such as, “How do you go about using a story book in a math classroom?”
Question (mind the book spoiler): – The emperor eventually invites Ying to join the team working out engineering solutions to the annual floods. Does solving abstract puzzles like magic squares really help with applied mathematics?
(This is a page layout with Ying and her, sadly empty, fishing pole, from when the river flooded.)
Answer: Solving puzzles such as magic squares leads to uncovering the general structure of a problem type. There are properties that are true of all magic squares that can be unpacked. At first glance they are simple, but their beauty is in the complexities of understanding how it is that they “work”.
When we change one number in the magic square, that affects the row and the column and ultimately the rest of that SYSTEM. We can use that property to make a point about system thinking. We can’t solve the magic square cell by cell, but have to consider it as a whole. Likewise, rivers, rains, and the weather are systems that have many components all affecting one another.
Ying demonstrates for readers the qualities that are required for engineers and designers, such as perseverance and being intellectually brave. Young children can also start their STEM journeys with puzzles. The beauty and challenge of problem solving will help them develop lifelong skills necessary in the STEM fields.
There are 10 days left on the book’s crowdfunding campaign, with about 73% of the target goal gathered by the supporters – THANK YOU! If you contribute, you receive the book plus special prizes, and your name in the book’s dedication pages. You can also dedicate your contribution under an alias, list your whole family, or put your math circle, school, or business name into the book.
We are very grateful for each and every contribution. Starting at, and including, the $1 level, the contributions do add up and make the book possible. Each contribution is a voice of support on a long and difficult journey from the concept to the finished book. Each is a vote of confidence that warms the hearts of the book’s team. Each supporter sparks hope for the future authors who contemplate if they should write a math book one day.
In addition to the story, the book has materials for teachers and parents to explore magic squares with children, and to help children pose their own problems. Here are some bonus activities to try.
Smaller numbers make for faster puzzles, accessible to younger children. Arrange these numbers:
1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3
in the nine boxes below so that each row and column has the same sum.
Magic squares are a mathematical puzzle that has fascinated learners throughout time, including capturing the attention of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin created his Magic Square in 1771 and later wrote, “I was at length tired with sitting there to hear debates, in which, as clerk, I could take no part, and which were often so unentertaining that I was induc’d to amuse myself with making magic squares or circles” (Franklin 1793). Here is his famous Franklin Square:
What do you notice about the Franklin square? What do you wonder? What patterns do you see? Send your ideas, magic squares, and questions our way to share with the Natural Math community!
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