The Talking Stick Blog

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New Math Circle Courses for 2017-18

Here are our unofficial course schedules for the upcoming year. Once they become official (after some possible extremely minor tweaking), registration info will be posted on the Talking Stick website.


Our Algorithmic Culture

Dates: Thursdays, 3:30-4:45pm, 9/7-10/26 (8 weeks, 75-minute sessions, 10 hours total)

Suggested Ages: 13+

What are algorithms and how do they drive our culture? We’ll examine the Google page-rank algorithm, Cathy O’Neill’s National-Book-Award-nominated Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, whether random number generators are really random, the mathematics behind “fake news,” the Euclidian algorithm, and much more. These topics will provide context for a study of the algebra behind algorithms: sequences of instructions that usually involve variables and (algebraic) expressions. These expressions can be organized logically into matrices, programs, flowcharts, etc., to produce solutions to well-defined problems. Then, of course, we will debate the appropriateness of labelling problems “well-defined.” While we’re at it, we’ll delve into some statistics and number theory and then compose some algorithms of our own.

Students should be familiar and comfortable with variables, although the ability to manipulate them is not a prerequisite. While this is a students-only course, interested parents and guardians are invited to participate during the final session.


Embodied Mathematics

Dates: Thursdays, 3:30-4:30pm, 11/2-12/7 (5 weeks, no class on Thanksgiving)

Suggested Ages: 5-7

Neuroscience has provided empirical evidence of what we intuitively knew all along: that counting on your fingers enhances learning. The discipline of embodied mathematics employs gesturing and physical interactions with the environment to develop conceptual understanding and to facilitate articulation about mathematical concepts. Year after year, young students come into Math Circle with the idea that mathematics is all about quick computation and nothing else. This course will open students’ minds to the reality that math is about more than numbers and can be explored with more than a computational approach. We’ll use our bodies and surroundings to examine symmetry, 2D and solid geometry, equivalence, measurement, spatial reasoning, and arithmetic computation.



Dates: Thursdays, 3:30-4:30pm, 1/25-3/1 (6 weeks)

Suggested Ages: 8-10

An invariant is a quantity whose value never changes no matter what you do to the operation under consideration. For example, when you shuffle a deck of cards, the number of cards in the deck remains unchanged. Mathematicians consider invariance one of the most important concepts children need to know as they go through their math educations. In this course, we’ll engage in problem solving, games, flowcharts, storytelling, and a hands-on exploration of the Euler Characteristic to search for and understand invariants.


The Platonic Solids

Dates: Thursdays, 3:30-4:30pm, 3/29-5/17 (8 weeks)

Suggested Ages: 10-14

Students will engage in hands-on activities to discover some fundamental principles of geometry. We’ll create and classify the platonic solids as we build with Polydrons. We’ll explore fractals as we attempt to build a 3D Sierpinski Triangle from business cards. We’ll make discoveries about area as we fold paper into squares and triangles. We’ll explore and expand upon Euclidian geometry as we fold more paper. We’ll see math in nature through a look at how ladybugs fold their wings. And in a study of empirical versus logical proofs, we’ll use toilet paper to explore what variables come into play – and how they interact – as we try to figure out the maximum number of times you can fold a piece of paper.



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