TAG: problem-solving

Running out of puzzles

Because people know I run the One Hundred Factorial puzzle sessions, they often ask me if I have a repository of puzzles they can use for their classroom, enrichment program, maths club, or their own enjoyment. Sometimes I feel embarrassed because I don’t actually¬†have a big repository of puzzles. Surely since I am a person […]

Posted in Being a good teacher, One Hundred Factorial | Tagged |


The Solving Problems Poster

This blog post is about the Solving Problems poster that has been on the MLC wall for more than ten years in one form or another. The most current version of it in handout form is this:

You can download this handout in PDF form here.
I’ve been meaning to blog about it for some time, but […]

Posted in Being a good teacher, Thoughts about maths thinking | Tagged , , |


Twelve matchsticks: focus or funnel

One of my favourite puzzles is the Twelve Matchsticks puzzle. It goes like this:
Twelve matchsticks can be laid on the table to produce a variety of shapes. If the length of a matchstick is 1 unit, then the area of each shape can be found in square units. For example, these shapes have areas 6, […]

Posted in Being a good teacher | Tagged , , |

Leave a comment

Context fatigue

Context fatigue is a particular kind of mental exhaustion that happens after having to make sense of multiple different contexts that maths/statistics is embedded in. I feel it regularly, but I feel it most strongly when I have spent a day helping medical students critically analyse the statistics presented in published journal articles.
The problem with maths […]

Posted in Being a good teacher, Thoughts about maths thinking | Tagged , |

Leave a comment

Trying maths live on Twitter

Once upon a time, I decided I would be vulnerable on Twitter. As part of that, when someone posted a puzzle that I was interested in, I decided that I would not wait until I had a complete answer to a problem before I responded, but instead I would tweet out my partial thinking. If […]

Posted in Thoughts about maths thinking | Tagged , |

Leave a comment

Really working together

Yesterday, I had one of those experiences in the MLC that makes me love my job.
The Maths 1B students were working on a linear algebra proof today, and as I came up to one of the tables, Fred (name changed) was explaining the beginning of his proof to the rest of the table. When I […]

Posted in How people learn (or don't), Other MLC stuff | Tagged , |

1 Comment

A story instead of stars and bars

In a recent post (Counting the Story), I talked about how if you look closely at most solutions of combinatorics problems, you’ll see that they actually count the story of constructing the object rather than the object itself.
One exception to this is a problem like this:
“The balloon man has a huge collection of balloons in […]

Posted in Isn't maths cool?, Thoughts about maths thinking | Tagged , |

Leave a comment

Inspiration, not instructions

We have a big problem-solving poster on the MLC wall that gives students advice for solving problems. One of those pieces of advice is that to decide what to do for your current problem, you could look at other problems for inspiration. Yesterday I saw the dangerous results of what happens if you look at […]

Posted in Being a good teacher, How people learn (or don't), Thoughts about maths thinking | Tagged , |

1 Comment

There is no such thing as “just a quick question”

We often get students in the MLC saying that they have “just a quick question”: “Finally you’re up to me – it seems like a long time to wait when it’s just a quick question…”; “I know it’s 4:05 and the Centre closed five minutes ago, but it’s just a quick question…”; “I’m sorry to […]

Posted in Being a good teacher, Other MLC stuff | Tagged , , |


Assignments don’t teach people

It is a well-known truth that assessment drives learning. Students will often not learn a particular topic or concept unless it is assessed by an assignment or exam. Fair enough — often students are not choosing to do a particular course for the sheer love of it, are they?
However, many lecturers take this truth just […]

Posted in Being a good teacher, How people learn (or don't) | Tagged , , |

1 Comment