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Day November 24, 2013

Family Math and paper folding

Had a fun set of interactions on twitter today as I was sitting in my hotel room in London.

Steven Strogatz, a math professor at Cornell (and the PhD thesis advisor to one of the players that I coached on Brute Squad a few years ago), mentioned a really neat article about a high school student’s experience with a famous paper folding problem:

http://mathforum.org/mathimages/index.php/Bedsheet_Problem

There were several quick and great reactions to this post.  Justin Lanier, one of the teachers who helps run the amazing math website http://www.mathmunch.org, mentioned that the Math Munch team was in the process of doing an interview with her.   They had, in fact, written up an article about her recently:

http://mathmunch.org/2013/11/04/numenko-turning-square-and-toilet-paper/

Alexander Bogomolny who runs the absolutely incredible math website http://www.cut-the-knot.org mentioned that the  record mentioned in Strogatz’s article  had been broken at MIT in 2011 by James Tanton and his students:

http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/cambridge/2011/12/toilet_paper_used_to_break_pap.html

it was fun for me to be reminded of the paper folding record at MIT because it had  inspired me to start a (nearly) weekly series I do with my kids called Family Math.   My idea in making this series was to take stuff from around the house, or stuff we read about, or just neat math stuff in general and turn it into a fun math activity for kids.

The first video in the series, an effort to try to break the record of 13 folds, is here:

Family Math 99 – talking about a strange aspect of the Higgs boson mentioned an article by the physicist Frank Wilczek:

Family Math 62 – talking about the Collatz conjecture:

I’m sure that some are much better than others, but making this series for the last couple of years has been really fun.  I’m really hope that we’ll be able to continue making these videos every weekend for a long, long time.

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