Friday Fave for August 24

With summer coming to an end, the Friday Fave is in a playful mood. Math and play go hand-in-hand. Most play has some mathematical elements: timing, space, counting, scale…. And nearly all the best mathematics has a playful element.

Play involves imagining possibilities, asking “What if?” and it varies over time. While you may enjoy constructing an equilateral triangle with compass and straightedge, it’s not really playful if you do it the same way every time.

Play changes over time. For example, if you look through the Twitter feed of Annie Perkins (Desmos Fellow), you’ll her playing with compass and straightedge, color and shading as she explores and interprets Islamic Geometry. Or look through Malke Rosenfeld’s images for mathematical play with dice, dancing, and knitting. In both cases, you’ll see new ideas and increased complexity over time.

Compass and straightedge, markers, dice, yarn and knitting needles. These are examples of different media for exploring and playing, and Desmos is such a medium as well.

The Fave recently featured some playful geometry sketches that become especially delightful when you break the rules (an important part of variation is breaking the old rules and establishing new ones).

When we first released Function Carnival, we soon heard from teachers and students who were choreographing multiple Cannon People by controlling their aerial acrobatics with graphs.

And what about Sean Sweeney’s Marbleslide challenges? Playful for kids, but they are especially wonderful as an example of a math teacher playing with a highly specialized medium. Get on over there and get inspired!

As your new school year gets underway, keep an eye out for opportunities to play with math and to have your students play with math. And by all means, share your playful rule-breaking with us and the world.