Kitchen > UserPageIndex > MakingMathInteresting

• Go bowling. Ignore the automated system, and keep score manually. Then, work through the calculation for some counter-factual cases (“What would my score have been if I hadn’t missed that @#\$! spare in the fourth frame?”). Try to figure which one roll would have boosted your score the most if it would have knocked down all the pins.

• Check the standings. Develop the formula for computing “magic numbers” for clinching the division in baseball. Just please don’t tell me how small the Cardinals’ magic number is to eliminate the Cubs.

• Follow the market. Each person picks five stocks to watch. Invest your pretend portfolio in them. Track their performance throughout the month of August. Figure out how to plot their daily performance on a graph, comparing their performance to the Dow, the NASDAQ, and the S&P 500. Trade into other stocks along the way.

• Try Mathmania. Look for interesting problems in the Mathmania booklets put out by Highlights publishing. These periodicals are probably aimed at 4th or 5th graders, but you can upscale some of the problems by trying to describe them using algebra.

• Look at MATHCOUNTS. The MATHCOUNTS web site (www.mathcounts.org). They’ve got a “problem of the week” archive (with solutions!) that you can browse through. These problems are often topically related to current events. They’re designed to interest kids, so maybe some of them will succeed with your kid. MATHCOUNTS is for math-oriented middle schoolers, so it will challenge most high school students, too.

• Graph the logical flow. Develop a flow chart—or pseudo-code, if you’re already into programming—describing scoring in tennis. Nest a loop for point scoring within a loop for set scoring. Sometimes deuce is an infinite loop.

• Play Jeopardy. Write up your own problems and arrange them in categories. This could be a lot of work, depending on how hard you make the problems. Don’t be too strict about answering in the form of a question.

• WARNING: High risk of failure. Plan a math rally around the yard or neighborhood. Students must solve clues in the form of math problems to find out, say, which envelope to open to get the next clue. Then they must determine which direction to walk to find the next clue. If you open the wrong envelope (or box, or whatever), you lose points, but it then tells you what would have been correct, so you can get back on the right track. If this turns out to be fun, that’s great. If, however, the kid thinks it’s bogus, then you’ve invested a lot of time to end up looking pretty foolish.
Dan K
7-30-2005