“Math is Fun Fridays”

When I was at the University of Waterloo (shameless plug), one of the mandatory courses for my undergrad degree was CO 350Linear Optimization. The description for this course reads:

“A first course in optimization, emphasizing optimization of linear functions subject to linear constraints (linear programming). Problem formulation. Duality theory. The simplex method. Sensitivity analysis.”

As it turns out, this course is the second lowest mark on my transcript (my lowest mark is a conversation for another day). For whatever reason, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the concepts. After hearing all this, you probably wouldn’t expect that this was one of the most enjoyable courses I ever took and the reason is simple… Dr. Steve Furino.

Every Friday, Dr. Furino would take time out of his 50 minute lecture and talk to us about the history of mathematics. I still remember the day he spoke about Archimedes and his part in the war between Syracuse and Rome. The depth of knowledge that he had, and the passion that oozed out of him when he spoke about these historical topics is something that will always stick with me. Our lectures were on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays at 8:30 am. Attendance was decent on Mondays and Wednesdays, but no one missed a Friday! We couldn’t wait to hear what Dr. Furino had in store for us.

About midway through last year, I felt a bit stuck in my daily routines and I wanted to try something new… something fun. I borrowed the idea from Dr. Furino and started “Math is Fun Fridays”. Every Friday, I would take between 2 and 10 minutes to discuss something that I find fun and/or interesting related to mathematics. The results, so far, have been excellent. Students now walk into the room on a Friday and ask when the “math is fun” activity will be discussed.


Hopefully you’re still with me because this is by far the most important part of this blog post…

I want to create a living document that houses all of these fun activities, so other teachers can use them in their classrooms. 

Here’s how I’m going to start this. Here is the link to a google doc, where I have listed many of the activities I have used, or will use. Feel free to use them in your classroom, but what I ask in return is that you also add a fun/cool/interesting activity or idea that interests you. (To do this, please email me at [email protected] so I can give you editing capability for the google doc). My hope is that this becomes like the “take a book, leave a book” stands you see in some neighbourhoods.

“Like a small boat on the ocean, sending big waves into motion. Like how a single word can make a heart open. I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion.” – Rachel Platten

Let’s turn our single match into an explosion!

About Michael Moore

I have taught senior mathematics at Hillfield Strathallan College for 10 years and I'm currently the Subject Coordinator for the Mathematics and Computer Science department.
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9 Responses to “Math is Fun Fridays”

  1. Lisa Mitchell says:

    Great idea Mike, I’ll get my thinking cap on!

  2. Graham Vogt says:

    Thanks for this post @mmoore and what an amazing resource you’re creating and sharing. Math in our school – the IB program – seems to be such a monster. A reprieve every now and then to remind us it’s fun sounds about perfect. I will certainly pass this post and your folder – assuming that’s ok.

    You also have me spinning in a slightly different direction. For those of us constantly re-imagining our approaches to teaching and learning, it’s easy to lose sight of the passion that led us there in the first place. It’s surely important to find the moments from time to time that will allow that passion to resonate – just Dr. Steve Furino did in leaving a lasting impression on you.

  3. @lmiller @rutheichholtz Can you share this post with your departments and networks in Germany and New Mexico. Let’s see how many activities we can collect.

    @mmoore Meet Leslie Miller and Ruth Eichholtz. Two rock star math teachers, Cohort 21 alumni and former York School Teachers now living over seas. They are also two of the best educators I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I hope they can help you crowd source this list of awesome activities.

    • Thanks Justin!

      I met Ruth last year at the final Cohort 21 conference and then shadowed her in May. I learned a lot from her that day, and you’re right, she is fantastic!

      Thanks for helping me make the new connection with Leslie as well.

  4. If you are being tagged in this post comment it means two things.
    1) You are super star math teacher
    2) You are a Cohort 21 alumni who I am sure can share with @mmoore some the ways you embed “fun” into your lessons and class culture. Read the post above and jump into his linked google doc to share yours.

    @rmcarthur @jdenison @sheyes @marcielewis @jillian @chriscoyne @alexiamoliotsias @agregson @kcardinale @egelleny @kdawes @aruston @bnichols @gregadams @clovrics @dcheeseman @snewell

    @ckirsh @lmcbeth @ddoucet @shelleythomas @gvogt @jmedved @gnichols

  5. Leslie says:

    Hello Michael,

    What a great idea – I would love to be a part of this and I will definitely pass this link on to members of my math department. My email address is [email protected]. Also I would love to incorporate more history into my class so if you have any recommendations of books, blogs, etc. that would be greatly appreciated. I have to admit history of mathematics was never part of my university learning (at any level) other than bits and pieces I have picked up over the years.

    I look forward to sharing!

    Thank you @jmedved for your kind words and for passing along this info!

  6. Thanks for sharing! I was never really that interested in Math beyond Geometry, largely because I didn’t see a connection between the work I was doing in OAC Calculus and the real world. If my teacher had taken the time to explain to me the history and relevance of what we were learning, I am sure I would have been more interested. Thank you so much for using this approach to inspire your students — and creating a shared resource to help others do the same!

  7. awesome idea, @mmoore! I’m in and will forward to the math teachers I know on this side of the pond.

    @jmedved you are too kind, and I love it.

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