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Topic: [math-learn] So what about puzzles and games?
Replies: 1   Last Post: Dec 3, 2005 2:09 PM

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kirby urner

Posts: 2,502
Registered: 11/29/05
[math-learn] So what about puzzles and games?
Posted: Dec 2, 2005 5:16 PM
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A lot of folk, when they've "growed up", and returned to math (having
soured on it early -- bad teaching perhaps) pick up a puzzles and
games book.

Clever word problems defy solution, even with all the remembered
algebra tricks, until you study the answer page, and then it's all so
very obvious and clear.

But how does one get the answer on one's own?

This is some of what's tantalizing about mathematics: you wonder how
some of those puzzles ever got solved, even though, now that they are,
you understand the proofs.

Like, where did Euler even get that totient thing, about how a base to
some unrelated totient of N, is divisible by N, but one.

Me, I like puzzles and games, though I'm very often stumped by them.
Tara and I did a walk through in Uru, everything already solved. I
thank the hard work of those archeologists, who solved so many secrets
of the D'nai -- so we didn't have to.

Likewise hats off to mathematicians of old, arithmeticians,
algebraists, number jugglers, snake charmers... of many bygone eras.
We started out so much further ahead, my generation did, and yours
too, if yours is after mine -- or so you'd have a right to expect,
given work done in the interim.

Martin Gardner was great. I love Vos Savant as well (she really
*pisses* em off -- in a way I find hilarious).

I think some of these traditionalist curricula are too lacking in
playful puzzle solving. But the constructionists are often much
worse: nothing's even been constructed yet (the kids are supposed to
be incredibly inventive and original) so not even the traditional
story problems get addressed.

It's about what you're *for* not what you're against. No one will
remember you for what you merely attacked. Somehow, women seem
quicker to pick up on that (not too wrong for a stereotype I trust).

Do ya'll remember the story of John Saxon? He dared to include elves
and fairies in his story problems until the Puritans complained.
Here's this retired military guy, home from the wars, ready to share
mathematics with the nation's children and what does he find?: that
he's in an alien country, a stranger in a strange land, one wherein
parents might cast stones at your car, should your math text dare to
mention either Frodo or Gandalf.

Math and fantasy were set apart by a Great Wall. It was wrong. We
smashed it down. Everyone stood to benefit.


4D Solutions: A Pioneer in Open Source
Math through storytelling. Beyond flatland. Math through programming.

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