Wild About Math! Making Math fun and accessible


What do you get when you cross a manual typewriter with an iPad?

[ Ok, so this post is way off topic. Fortunately, it's my blog. ]

I grew up with an Underwood manual typewriter. If I only still had that typewriter I could hook it up to any USB-capable computer. USBTypewriter.com provides design documents, assembly instructions, kits to do it yourself, and you can ship them your typewriter and they'll install the mod for you. Wow!


Hat tip to NspireD2.

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Sneaking Math into children’s diets

[ Editor's note: This is a guest post by Caroline Mukisa, who took me up on my offer to promote web-sites that are non-commercial (or that are slightly commercial but have tons of great free content. ]

Caroline Mukisa is on a mission to help parents to support their childrens Math learning and is a big fan of sneaking math into children's (and parent's) diets. She blogs as the Maths Insider.

This blog post is the culmination of a fight; a really big fight. You see when Sol invited me to guest post on Wild About Math! I took it as an opportunity to seize possession of the big, shiny, blue book my 10 year old had kept hidden away for the past 6 months so that she wouldn't have to share it with her brother, The Guinness Book of World Records.

Following the liberation of the big, shiny, blue book, her brother wasn't going to just let me take it and read it for research purposes, he wanted it and he wasn't giving up without a fight. He even brought in reinforcements, his 2 little brothers. Guinness World Records 2010, you see, still has thousands of extreme facts but also has thousands of photos of the biggest, fastest, smallest, loudest and more, so even my pre-numerate 18 month old wanted to take a look.

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Review: Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is just that, a book of jokes for people who like Math. I particularly enjoy reading Math jokes that non-Math people won't get. This book is chock full of them.

"What happened to your girlfriend, that really cute math student?"

"She's not my girlfriend any more. She was cheating on me. A couple of nights ago, I called her on the phone, and she told me that she was in bed wrestling with three unknowns."

Here's another:

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Paul Erdos: It was forced to do so by the chicken-hole principle.

"Math Jokes" is 117 pages of pure (vs. applied) fun. The author, Patrick Vennebush, who I've exchanged a few emails with, is a great guy too. And, he's done important work to advance Math. I found this link to an article about Patrick winning a Penn State Achievement Award in 2007. Patrick is Online Projects Manager for the NCTM Illuminations Math teaching resources web-site.


How far would Mantle’s mighty smash have traveled, had it not smacked the upper façade?

Princeton University Press is interviewing its authors in April for Math Awareness Month. This year's theme is Mathematics and sports.

This morning Princeton University Press published an interview with Mike Huber, author of Mythematics, a book I reviewed last October. It turns out that Huber is passionate about baseball, especially about the Mathematics of the sport.

As part of our Math Awareness Month celebrations we interviewed previous faculty member of the United States Military Academy at West Point and current Associate Professor of Mathematics at Muhlenberg College, Dr. Mike Huber. Although Huber teaches courses ranging from Statistics to Calculus his real passion is sabermetrics, the computerized measurement of baseball statistics. Huber finds that he is able to relate to students most through sabermetrics because he is able to show that what he is teaching in the classroom is relevant to the students’ passion of sports. He is also the author of Mythematics: Solving the Twelve Labors of Hercules

The interview is fun and inspiring for sports fanatics who are curious about the role of Mathematics in sports. In the interview, Huber tells a fun story:

Several years ago, I met Mr. Tony Morante, the director of tours at Yankee Stadium. He asked me to investigate a story surrounding Mickey Mantle. On May 22nd, 1963, the New York Yankees hosted the Kansas City Athletics in a night game at Yankee Stadium, before a crowd of 9,727. According to John Drebinger of The New York Times, “Mickey Mantle belted one of the most powerful home run drives of his spectacular career.” In the next paragraph, Drebinger continues, “First up in the last of the 11th with a score deadlocked at 7-all and a count of two balls and two strikes, the famed Switcher leaned into one of Carl [note: Fischer’s first name was Bill] Fischer’s fast ones and sent the ball soaring. It crashed against the upper façade of the right-field stand, which towers 108 feet above the playing field.” Mr Morante wanted to know, “How far would Mantle’s mighty smash have traveled, had it not smacked the upper façade?”

Read the interview to hear Huber's answer plus what factors he considered in determining his answer.

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Happy Pi Day: interview with pi poet

Happy Pi Day, everyone! Today I have a special treat. I had the opportunity to interview Pi poet, Mike Keith. Mike is into constrained writing and Pi, among other things. Mike recently published a book, Not A Wake, that demonstrates the constrained writing:

A collection of short stories, poetry, plays, puzzles, and other surprises, all constructed according to the rigid rules of "Pilish", that peculiar variant of English in which the number of letters in successive words is required to follow the digits of the number π = 3.14159265358979..., in this case for a truly grand total of 10,000 decimals. The perfect book for fans of the number Pi, constrained writing, wordplay, puzzles, or experimental prose and poetry.

Mike sent me a copy of "Not a Wake" to review. In case it's not obvious, the three words of the title of the book have 3, 1, and 4 letters. And, the pattern continues with the subtitle "A Dream Embodying Pi's Digits Fully for 10000 Decimals."

This is a fun book. The challenge in writing such a book is to have the writing be natural in the face of a pretty serious constraint! The book accomplishes that beautifully! Mike is clearly a poet as he is able to pluck the right words out of the ether to make the poetry flow. And, he does it for 10,000 words!


Rhythm, Rhyme, Results: rapping about Math for Pi Day

[ Editor's Note:

Taunia from "Rhythm, Rhyme, Results" wrote to me asking if I'd blog about her education site. The site sells fun educational music and, in particular, has some Math songs in their Pi Day Collection. I wrote back letting Taunia know that I rarely plug commercial sites but I liked what her company was doing (luring students to Math with rap music) so I'd give her a plug on two conditions:

  1. She sends me a couple of sample songs so that I feel good about what I'm listening to.
  2. She writes a guest article for Wild About Math! I emphasized that the guest article should be educational in nature and not at all "salesy."

Well, I liked what I heard and here is Taunia's soapbox. ]

Greetings from Rhythm, Rhyme, Results

While researching different math blogs and sites online, we came across “Wild About Math!” and decided to say hello since our educational goals are quite similar. At educationalrap.com we strive to make math (and all academics, actually) fun and creative. And like a lot of math folks out there, we’re celebrating Pi Day on March 14th.

Rhythm, Rhyme, Results (educationalrap.com) is spread out on both US coasts. Our network of collaborators spans across the country, so we’ve come up with a workflow that works for us. We start by picking topics that are required by state assessment standards, and compare those to topics requested specifically by teachers. After researching and outlining a song topic, we then either write the lyrics ourselves or hire a lyricist. We have one artist who composes, writes lyrics, and performs, but most of the time we use a number of artists for every song.


Slide rules rule

The March/April 2009 issue of the Stanford Magazine had this delightful letter to the editor.


The article on Tom Wyman and his slide rule collection (“Calculating Collector,” Red All Over, January/February) takes me back to 1972, when Hewlett Packard introduced the HP-35, its first pocket scientific calculator, priced at $395. I was living in Palo Alto then, so I went to the Stanford Bookstore to see it. I found a gentleman standing at the counter, experimenting with the display model. When he finished, I asked him if he was thinking of buying one. No, he replied, he was just a salesman who happened to be calling on the store. I asked him what he sold and he answered, “Pickett slide rules.”

“Well,” I said, “doesn’t this new gadget have you worried?”

“Not at all,” he replied, “our slide rules can do anything this can do, at a tenth the price. Our sales are better than ever.”

Of course, the rest is now history, and so are those once-ubiquitous Pickett slide rules.

Richard A. Dirks, Gr. ’62
Asheville, North Carolina

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Winner: Cool caption crafting contest

Happy New Year Everyone!

A week before Christmas I posted a contest asking folks to come up with the best caption for this picture (click to enlarge.)

Well, I got 63 submissions and I had the tough job of picking the one I liked most. What I did was read each caption and mentally note how hard I laughed. Scientific approach, wasn't it?

I laughed hardest at JJC's submission so he or she gets the $20 Amazon gift card:

Welcome to Undergrad Physics in One Semester. I don’t expect you to understand anything on the board, just the Calc behind it.

Here are a bunch of the other submissions that cracked me up:

"Any questions?" - by Anais

…and that wraps up #2. Any questions? Good. Numbers 3 to 10 for homework. Careful, #7 is less straightforward. - by John Golden

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Have a symmetrical object named after you

I became a big fan of Marcus du Sautoy when I read his books Symmetry, and Music of the Primes.


Then I discovered the TED video, Symmetry: reality's riddle.

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Cool caption crafting contest

Happy Holidays, everyone!

I'll give $20 as an Amazon gift card (or PayPal cash) to whoever, in my opinion, comes up with the best caption for the image below. Click on the image to gain the full, mind-boggling, effect. The small piece of the image you see here doesn't do the picture justice.

Leave your submission as a comment and make sure to put your email in the email field of the comment form so I can contact you if I like your caption best.

Contest ends 12/31/2009. Have fun!

Hat tip to Cliff Pickover for the tweet pointing to the image.

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