Math Storytelling Day

Skip to first unread message

Maria Droujkova

Sep 25, 2009, 8:49:10 AM9/25/09
to, Baba the Storyteller, Louise Omoto Kessel, Jenny Eggleston
Here is a neat activity to do with kids, invented by Seth Godin, a social media visionary: "What should people do on your birthday?" Here is a quote from his blog:

"On July 4, birthday of the USA, we're supposed to blow off fireworks, eat hot dogs and buy a Chevrolet.
On Columbus Day, birthday of an early imperialist, we're supposed to shop and march in a parade.
On Martin Luther King Jr. day, marvelously, we're supposed to participate in a national day of service.
So, what should we do on your birthday?
With all due respect to Hallmark, the idea of sending people cards and presents on their birthday seems both selfish and small-minded. It seems to me that we could think bigger."

We did this activity with my daughter, and it was both meaningful and fun. On her birthday, Katya wanted people to be creative ethnographers and anthropologists, design their own cultures, and then play out that culture's traditions with friends and families. For my birthday, I would like people to share math stories.

So, for my friends and family, let it be a Math Storytelling Day. We all have some math stories to tell! We can use the classics, like Hilbert's Hotel Infinity: We can use math anecdotes and jokes: We can commiserate about horrible events from our childhoods that caused us bad cases of math anxiety. We can laugh with/at customers in search of math clues: We can bring in history, like the Betsy Ross star story:

I am preparing a story, "Are unicorns real?" to share later today. It is about the discussion of reality and symbols in a Math Club for five-six year old kids.

Tell your math stories - to a friend or on your blog, to your class or to your kid. Storytelling is wonderful! Tell us in this thread where you told your stories, too, so we can all share the joy.

Happy birthday to me,
Maria Droujkova

Make math your own, to make your own math.

Sue VanHattum

Sep 25, 2009, 10:20:53 AM9/25/09
Maria, My jaw dropped - we share our birthday!

My story is that we, you and I, are twin primes, and when we're a bit older, someone will prove we're infinite.  ;^)

At my math salon last Saturday, I did what I called the pancake problem. Ellen Kaplan did it with kids at the Great Circles conference. I started out by saying this is a magical pancake, and each piece will grow to be just big enough to fill your tummy, so you don't care if your piece is big or small. (The math question is - how many pieces can we get from n cuts?)

Maybe I'll have more for you later.

Happy birthday to both of us!


Date: Fri, 25 Sep 2009 08:49:10 -0400
Subject: [NaturalMath] Math Storytelling Day

Bing™ brings you maps, menus, and reviews organized in one place. Try it now.

Mike South

Sep 25, 2009, 11:57:20 AM9/25/09
On Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 9:20 AM, Sue VanHattum <> wrote:
Maria, My jaw dropped - we share our birthday!
Oo!  oo!  Ok here's mine--have you ever thought about how _likely_ coinciding birthdays are?  My dad used to do this with his college classes.  He would make a bet with them that there were two people in the class with the same birthday.  Now, the chances of you and _one_ other completely randomly selected person having the same birthday are roughly 1/365, so you might think that even in a group as big as 30 it's not terribly likely.  But the thing is, it's harder than you think to _not_ have any intersections, because you keep filling up the available 365 slots, so that by the time you get to 30, your chance of at least two people having the same birthday is over 70%!

One day I got a calculator for school, and it came with a book that had some problems in it that showed the calculator's abilities.  One of them was the birthday problem, which my dad was excited to see.  We put in the numbers for his size of classes, and it turned out that it wasn't as likely as he thought, and he'd been taking a bigger risk all those years than he realized.  It doesn't cross 50% until you get to like 23 or something.  

Happy birthday, Maria.  And Sue!

anirban chaudhuri

Sep 25, 2009, 12:08:38 PM9/25/09
Hi Maria,
I shall come up with an interesting story soon,but let me take the occasion to wish you a Very Happy Birthday..

From: Maria Droujkova <>
Cc: Baba the Storyteller <>; Louise Omoto Kessel <>; Jenny Eggleston <>
Sent: Friday, 25 September, 2009 6:19:10 PM

Subject: [NaturalMath] Math Storytelling Day

From cricket scores to your friends. Try the Yahoo! India Homepage!

Maria Droujkova

Sep 25, 2009, 6:06:53 PM9/25/09
Forwarding for Bradford of WholeMovement:
The Story of Nothing


There was nothing, not even zero. There by some stretch of imagination was an image of movement; a movement that could only be seen by where it wasn’t to where it is.  There is now three; nothing, image, something. They can not be separated. The image of something and nothing are the unity of everything. Nothing before image is now a trinity to everything. The image is finite; the movement is infinite between nothing and something, two circles connected at a single point. One circle is nothing, the multiple is everything.  In a finite universe we are familiar with the inverse of infinite triunity in the image of two locations connected by a single movement. The line replacement has become the symbol of choice and the circle is only a point representation of nothing. We have lost the importance of triunity as foundational and seven as associative interaction. So we now give importance to one line and a circle as units in a line of progression that moves forward towards infinity of unity that is origin.

That is my story and I am sticking to it.


Happy Birthday Maria



Bradford Hansen-Smith
4606 N. Elston #3
Chicago Il 60630

Maria Droujkova

Sep 25, 2009, 6:34:21 PM9/25/09
Forwarding for Lucy Laffitte:

Stories of Math in Stained Glass Windows:

"An examination of a large version of the close up reveals that there are two colors to the background squares. Some are light purple, and some are more or less clear. This probably isn't a reference to Tetris, and it probably means something, but I don't know what!"

Maria Droujkova

Sep 25, 2009, 6:37:18 PM9/25/09
Forwarding from j.o.
The Story of Mistakes Activity

I love the "moral of the story" - MD
The discussion of the mistakes activity:

Here were some thoughts i had after doing the "mistake activity": 
My child had fun making mistakes on purpose with the algebra word problem i gave him - and the activity definitely served to loosen us up regarding our attitudes towards mistakes.  i am very thankful for that!
i noticed that his mistakes were silly, and nothing you'd really see in real life.   So it was great to do for fun, but it's mathematical value seemed limited at the time. 
It seems that it is my responsibility (and my child has a responsibility as well) to keep this valuable tool in my pocket and know when to use it.  The "tool" being a good attitude about mistakes, a willingness to draw as much as i can out of it in the moment, drawing my child into digging deeper with it, all in real time.   It is hard to "force" an interesting, meaningful math mistake, and so the activity as a "planned" thing had some limits. 
To me, the key here is the same as it is for all areas of life:  not categorizing things, but a dynamic flow of all things, seeing all the connections.  Not saying "now we're sitting down and doing grammar, okay, now we are doing math".  One might actually sit and DO that, sure, you have to at times, but it's an ATTITUDE i'm talking about.  It doesn't STOP THERE, like "okay, now we're done with math, now we're done with grammar, now we've done the mistake activity".  It's keeping everything fresh and alive, with a deep understanding of when to apply the tools at the right time for the most efficacy. 
The math activities are great, and they will reach their full potential when threaded into the fabric of life.

Thanks for adding this mistake-tool to my toolbox :)   i'll be ready with it for the math mistakes in real time, as well as applying it to everything else around me, as needed!
Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages