Monday, March 23, 2020

Online Math Circle: Pythagorean Triples



The Pythagorean theorem tells us that if a and b are the legs, and c the hypotenuse, of a right triangle, then a2+b2 = c2. Usually that makes at least one side something ugly like square root of 2. But a few combinations make all three sides whole numbers. Those are called Pythagorean triples. Here are a few of them: 3-4-5, 6-8-10, 5-12-13, 8-15-17, 20-12-29.


Are there patterns to this? Let's play, and see what we can figure out! (We will use some algebra.)



Edited to add:

This online math circle happened on Friday, March 27, at 10am PDT (1pm EDT). [This link is to the zoom recording, along with its automatically produced (therefore hilariously bad) audio transcript.]

I promised to write up some of it here.

Way back in 2007, I read Bob and Ellen Kaplan's book, Out of the Labyrinth: Setting Mathematics Free, about the math circles they lead. It was such a discovery for me! I went to their first Summer Math Circle Teacher Training Institute, held at Notre Dame, and fell in love with this community. I kept going back for years, craving a discussion of math among equals, figuring out new ways of seeing. One summer we discussed Pythagorean triples, and that December I tried to rebuild what I had learned. I am blessed with a very bad memory, so what I did in December looked very different from what we had done in the summer.

I was also exploring online, and ended up putting together a book that collected some of the best resources I had found: Playing with Math: Stories from Math Circles, Homeschoolers, and Passionate Teachers.

Our circle was prompted by Rodi Steinig's request for help learning how to use zoom for online math circles. I offered one of my favorite topics, and off we went. Participants came from as far away as Colombia (and farther?).

We proved a few things, and explored a bunch more. I hope some participants went home eager to prove more on their own.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Multiplication Chart with Pictures

In the story I'm writing, Althea remembers a multiplication chart that was posted in their bathroom. It had cool pictures around the edges for many of the facts.

  • 2x3 was a 6-pack of soda.
  • 2x6 was a carton of eggs.
  • 8x8 was a chessboard.
  • The fives were sometimes collections of nickels, but 5x12 was the 60 minutes on a clock, and 5x6 was time too.

I thought I knew of more iconic sets like these, but I can't think of any more as good as these. I'm hoping for help. Do you have images in your head for any of the multiplication facts?

Maybe threes will be 3-leaf clovers. 6 of them have 18 petals. That doesn't seem nearly as iconic as the ones above, though.

Fours could be legs on dogs. 6 dogs have 24 legs. Twos could be eyes on friends...


What are your favorite images for multiplication facts?
 
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