Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grandad On Mathematics

As my grandkids move through the early and formative stages of formal schooling, my biggest fear is that they will leave middle school with a strong dislike for mathematics. There appears to be no known antidote for this malady. I was saved from such a fate not by a schoolteacher, but by Martin Gardner and his monthly Mathematical Games column in Scientific American magazine. In one his columns he tells the story of how he was chastened by his math teacher for analyzing the game of Tic-tac-toe. The fact that he discovered it was a zero-sum game was of no mathematical import at all to the teacher. His monthly columns brought mathematics to life and I eagerly awaited the appearance of each issue on the periodical shelf at our Public Library. It’s true! Mathematics, at every level, is best played as a game.


  1. I agree math (maths in this part of the world) is best learnt and enjoyed through games. Unfortunately we teachers do not encourage students to look beyond the game! There is wonderful aspects of maths to be found if we 'just peel back the top layer' and dive in. In the game 'Twentyone' two players take turns to subtracting three or two or one, initally from twentyone and then what remains, with the player making zero the winner. Most players suddenly realise that four is the 'key' but many do not find the full strategy nor are able to transfer it to similar games such as 'Target Addition' from 'Family Math' We need to encourage learners to find the 'Math Behind The Door'!

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