Saturday, March 4, 2017

At the Julia Robinson Math Festival Today

Julia Robinson Math Festivals invite kids to play with math puzzles that start easy and offer harder questions as you go along. Today's festival was at Bentley School in Lafayette. (Some festivals are open to the public, and are much bigger.)

I was working the Pilgrim's Puzzle table. We had this puzzle to work on.

It was really fun watching kids and parents get engaged with it. Some paths give you fractions, and then taking away 2 can give you something like 1/8 - 2, which can be pretty confusing for a 3rd grader.

The first time I tried to help a kid with a problem like that I was not able to find an image that made this sensible. When B was stuck with a problem like this, I came up with anti-matter apples. It worked! We imagined 1/8th of an apple, and imagined two anti-matter apples. We cut the 2nd one into 8 pieces, took one of those pieces and exploded it with the regular 1/8th slice to make a poof and then nothing. So we had one anti-matter apple and ... 7/8ths of another, which we wrote as -1 7/8. Done.

I will be teaching beginning algebra in the fall. I don't think I've ever found an image for negative fractions that worked as well as I think this one will. I'm excited.

Here's B and me.


  1. So glad to see your righteous passion for teaching Mathematics to the young. Im still thankfull that you taught me when I entered college, even though I was already damaged goods in terms of hating math. You sparked a willingness to learn again those 16 years ago.And you taught me the beauty of trees. Sincerely, Cavin.

  2. Hi Sue! I was working out this morning listening to a podcast of Inspired by Math on which you were interviewed. 2014?!!! I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog. Love this Anti matter idea

  3. Thanks!

    I guess there's an ebb and flow, and I'm at the ebb these days with blogging. Google deleted my photos on a bunch of posts. (Perhaps I didn't have proper permission?) If you notice any that would really benefit by the photos being fixed, I'd love to know.


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