The Talking Stick Blog

News, Updates, Program Recaps, and Homeschooling Information

Category Theory #2: Grappling with Abstraction

(November 1, 2018) “That’s a pig!” said F, as we all walked over the picnic tables to start our Math Circle outside today. “No, Penelope is not a pig. She is a pig puppet. There’s a big difference,” I replied as we sat down. This seemingly inane comment of mine captured everyone’s attention.   PIG-PUPPET YEARS “You know how it…

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Category Theory 1: Odd One Out

(October 25, 2018) An important concept in category theory, indeed in mathematics itself, is deciding which attributes to ignore when you conduct mathematics. Context matters. When you’re signing a contract to buy a car, you may not care what color the contract is printed on. But when you’re sending out your wedding invitations, you might care about the paper color…

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“Waggy, Do You Eat Meat?” (Some Basic Tenets of Mathematics)

(September 20 and 27, 2018) On a particular island, every inhabitant (puppet) is either a knight, who always tells the truth, or a liar, who always lies. Which puppet is a liar? Which one a knight? You can either listen to their statements, or ask them questions. “What’s a statement?” asked A immediately. And our first session was off and…

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New Math Circle Course Schedules

MATH CIRCLE COURSE DESCRIPTIONS 2018-19 Unofficial schedule Classic Math Circle Problems Dates: Thursdays, 3:30-4:30pm, 9/20-10/18 (5 weeks) Suggested Ages: 5-7 Knights and Liars, open questions, story problems, pattern making and breaking, explorations of infinity, proofs, and more. We will have fun with these classic math circle activities as students develop the mathematical-thinking skills of asking questions, forming conjectures, testing conjectures,…

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Platonic Solids: The First Three Weeks

POLYDRONS (April 5 -19, 2018) In the past, I’ve often made the mistake of getting out “manipulatives”* to help students discover a certain mathematical concept only to find that the students wanted to engage in open-ended exploration. They weren’t interested in my agenda. So, for this course, I put the Polydrons on the table with no guidelines for two weeks….

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Invariants

(3/8/2018) During our course on Invariants, the eight-year-olds spent most of the time exploring the Euler Characteristic (click here for details). This report is essentially a list of other activities we did to start or finish our sessions. An invariant is something that never changes. Piagetian Conservation Tasks – We did every activity in this article: http://www.cog.brown.edu/courses/cg63/conservation.html. Conservation tasks basically…

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The Euler Characteristic for Eight-Year-Olds

(Jan. 25 – March 8, 2018) The five students (plus one occasional visitor) in our math circle spent six weeks doing like mathematicians do – savoring a math problem, learning it in depth before any attempts to solve it. I felt like Andrew Wiles in his decades-long work on Fermat’s Last Theorem. BEFORE THE COURSE: THINKING ABOUT IT I didn’t…

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Embodied Mathematics

(Nov 2 – Dec 7, 2017) Our 5-7 year olds just spent five weeks experiencing math with their bodies.* You can see some footage of this circle in action on the video we produced during the course. Thanks to all the students and parents who participated. Here’s a list/description of every activity we did.   Role-playing the need for math…

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Algorithms, Algebra, and College Admissions

(October 19 and 26, 2017) “Today we’re going to do something we’ve never done in a math circle here. We’re going to take a quiz.” Stricken looks on faces. “We’ll do it together, it’s just 2 questions, and I think it will be fun.” Relief. “I’m always on the lookout for things related to algorithms to share with you, and…

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Spotify and Random Number Generators

(October 12, 2017) “Everybody get a partner. Take a piece of paper. Take a pencil. Number your paper 1-30. You’re all going to flip a coin 30 times. In each partnership, decide which person will flip a real coin and which person will flip an imaginary coin.” That got their attention! I needed to harness their attention because many of…

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