Monthly Archives: June 2016

Friday Five: #7

I’ve been so busy this week with finishing up the end of semester (exams, Honours students’ theses, …) and starting up the Math(s) Photo Challenge that I couldn’t manage the Friday Five yesterday. I console myself that it’s still Friday somewhere in the world!

This week we launched the Math(s) Photo Challenge. Using @mathphoto16, we are posting a mathematical photo prompt each week. This week has been #symmetry. So far there have been nearly 600 tweets with the hashtags #mathphoto16 and #symmetry, and more than 500 followers of @mathphoto16. You can check out all the photos at

The Math(s) Photo Challenge is a great way to open your eyes — and your students’ eyes — to the math(s) in the world around you. Many are getting their classes involved with finding and constructing examples of the prompt. You can also make use of the treasure-trove of photos at and the 2015 in your classrooms.

For more inspiration about how to explore, play and enjoy doing maths, I thoroughly recommend you take a moment to watch Brian Bushart‘s 2016 NCTM #ShadowCon talk. (I was there; it was fabulous!)


Below are five examples (my Friday Five!) from this week’s #symmetry challenge — but please do check out the archive at We’ll post a new challenge on Sunday 19 June (in Australia). It’s never too late to join in. I look forward to your photos!


Friday Five: #6

  1. This week I loved reading about how Mark Chubb had the courage to see what came from his students exploring the Worst Problem Ever. By the way, if this is what Mark produces for his first blog post, I can’t wait to see more.
  2. I have been thinking a lot lately about the labels that we put on people and the effect that it has, thanks in no small part to Kaneka Turner’s powerful ShadowCon16 talk Extending the Invitation to be ‘Good’ at Math. It’s why stories like the ones in Ethan Weker’s latest post, I Can’t, Shouldn’t Be The First To Believe just break my heart.
  3. How good does this new book look?
  4. In the most recent version of MAA Focus (June/July 2016), Francis Su reminds us of The Value of Struggle, and how our actions signal what we value as important (mastery or grades). However, I hadn’t explicitly considered how our actions might influence students’ actions with regards to plagiarism. (Incidentally, I used the same method for flushing out copying many years ago — with the same result!)
  5. I hope you’ll join us for the Math Photo Challenge starting on June 12! Using @mathphoto16, we’ll post a mathematical photo prompt each week. We want you to share your photos using #mathphoto16 and the hashtag for the week. Get those maths lenses on your cameras and keep your eyes open. We’d love to have classes involved, too. For inspiration check out the amazing Summer Math Photo Challenge from 2015. I was rather intimidated to try and organise the challenge after that stellar achievement, but John Rowe and I will attempt a smaller scale event run via Twitter. We dropped ‘summer’ from the title as it’s winter here in Australia, but we didn’t call it ‘maths’ (like we do here). It is a truly global math(s) project!


Wrapping up the #MTBoS30 challenge

It just occurred to me that if you don’t follow me on Twitter (shame on you!), you might wonder why the steady stream of blog posts has slowed.

Since joining the MathTwitterBlogosphere, I’d been wondering what I could add to a community that I was currently only taking from — their thoughts, activities and enthusiasm.  A few people suggested starting a blog, but I wasn’t sure that I had anything to say that hadn’t already been said by people far more eloquent than me. In the afterglow of NCTM 2016 and with an encouraging word from Tracy Zager, I started thinking seriously about blogging. Then in May, I came across #MTBoS30 — the 30 day blogging challenge started by Anne Schwartz — and so I dived right in.

After successfully finishing #MTBoS30 I wanted a new #MTBoS challenge. John Rowe and I (well, mostly John!) are busy putting something together. We hope you’ll get involved; more very soon.

Five things I learned from #MTBoS30

How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
— EM Forster

  1. Sometimes I am so incredibly stupid. I know that writing clarifies thoughts; the best way for me to progress with mathematical research is to write down, organise and explain what I know so far to help identify gaps in my understanding. So why wouldn’t this be true for other areas of my professional life? I tell my students to write, write, write. I should take my own advice more often.
  2. It is easier for me to commit to do something every day than to try and remember to do it frequently. Since I’ve stopped posting every day, I’ve written many great posts in my head — but no-one can read them there (right, Elham :))?
  3. Given that this blog helps me clarify my own thoughts, I shouldn’t be concerned about how many people are reading (which is why I am definitely not obsessively monitoring the statistics …. right). But, since I can tell that people are looking (if not reading), it’s nice to know whether I’m just shouting into the wind or saying something that lingers. So now, when someone else’s blog post or idea resonates with me, I try to comment on their blog or by tweeting.
  4. A blog is a great repository of explained ideas — for myself and for others. For example, it was easy to share resources from a recent teacher PD session by writing a post about it. It is much more coherent than a link to a Dropbox folder (although that’s useful too). Plus, other people benefit — including me next time I run the session.
  5. (I wrote the section header, walked to the photocopier, then came back and forgot what #5 in the list was going to be …)

Summary of #MTBoS30 posts

Friday Five: #5

Friday Five #5? It will be a long time before I get this excited again (#55, I expect). 

  1. Alex Overwijk’s (@AlexOverwijk) website, Slam Dunk Math, is a fabulous collection of resources. I need to set aside time to work back through older posts. The most recent, on the coordinate grid, is exceptionally well-described. To pique your interest, check out the visual below. First words through my head? ‘Genius idea! Love it!’
  2. I was late to the party about Don Steward’s website. Two recent favourites I’ve discovered via Jo Morgan and Fawn Nguyen: circle remainders and what’s the question?
  3. David Butler (@DavidKButlerUoA) coordinates a puzzles and games gathering at the University of Adelaide called One Hundred Factorial. The website includes links to the online forum and to the Twitter hashtag. To give an idea of the types of puzzles, here are two of my favourites that David recently blogged about: Four alternatives to the four fours and Spotless dice. A teaser is below.


    Source: David Butler (

  4. David Bressoud (former MAA President) posted What we say/What they hear in February which has a synopsis of a paper that shows (in David’s words) ‘the sharp distinction between what was seen [as the important key points] in [a] lecture by those who are familiar with the material and what was seen by those who are still struggling to build an understanding’. The burning question for me is what we do to close that gap effectively.
  5. If you aren’t a subscriber to Ben Orlin‘s Math With Bad Drawings, I recommend you fix that immediately. He draw/writes about mathematical concepts, the culture and the nature of mathematics, learning, and just generally related stuff. Two of my recent favourites: Symbols that math urgently needs to adopt and A new favourite puzzle.