Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Math Games and Activities From Around the World

CROCUS is our acronym for Celebrating Reading of Culturally Unique Stories. All through CROCUS 2012 we shall have our contributors speak about various aspects about our theme for this year. How about focusing on Math across various cultures and through all of history in this post? Math Fun across time and geographies.

pic courtesy flipkart
Math Games and Activities
from around the World
Written by Claudia Zaslavsky
Published by Chicago Review Press
Ages 9+

Math games that originated in one part of the world went far and wide with travellers and traders, just as much as things like art & craft, language, scientific discoveries and inventions, and much else.

Do you know the story of the wise man from India who used the chessboard and some cool calculation to get rich when the king asked him to choose anything as a prize? He just placed one grain of wheat on the first square of the chessboard, and asked the king to double the amount for each consecutive square, and total all the grains on all the squares to give him. Think how much that would be. This story, which can be found with many variations all over Asia and the Middle East, uses the math of exponential sequences, or 'raising each successive number to the power n' as it can be simply put, can be used as a puzzle.

There are similar stories in the book about computing with numbers all over the world, dating back to ancient times. Check out the story of the merchant's will dividing 7 camels between his 3 sons in the ratio of 1/2 : 1/4 : 1/8?

ancient 15x15 square

Magic Squares? Do you know that playing with numbers on a Magic Square was being done as far back as 4000 years ago. The Chinese knew it then as Lo Shu. From there, it spread to other places like India, Japan, the Middle East, Africa, and then to Europe, Americas and Australia. Today it is a familiar mind-bender game.

More games with numbers? Want to try secret codes using numbers for alphabets? Or the trick about 1089 that never ceases to amaze? I could go on...Of course, there is the number crunching involved in games involving any kind of gamble.

Now lets look at shapes. Can you draw a 5-point star without lifting your hand from the paper? Easy, isn't it? Now can you do that for a 7-point star? Think- it can be done with the help of a simple geometrical shape. Now, try this- can you draw a 6-point star like the Star of David without lifting your hand from the paper? No. Why?
pic courtesy google images
Patterns using stars? These are found all over the world- Indian rangoli and the rich tribal art. Native American art and craft. Quilting and embroidery. These also use another geometrical concept- tessalation- repetitive figures fitting together snugly, that is also found in nature. Which can again be found in the art and craft of places as widely far-flung as Nigeria, Japan and Islamic nations.

Dots arranged in a certain manner? Add permutation-combinations, probability, and the possibilities for games are endless. 9 Men's Morris, Tic Tac Toe, Magic Squares, Su-do-ku...these are the ones that are widely known. They were played as far back as 3,300 years ago as found carved on the rooftops excavated in Egypt. Sounds interesting? Look up Shisima from Kenya, Tapatan from the Phillipines, Tsoro Yematatu from Zimbabwe, Picaria of the Native Americas, Nerenchi from Sri Lanka...they are found all over the world, and played with local variations.
pic courtesy indusladies.com
What about other kinds of fun using dot grids? We know rangolis and kolams, but there are similar uses elsewhere in he world. People from Angola, Africa, use the dot grid to draw and tell stories.

The book tells us about these and much more math fun, complete with historical and cultural tid-bits that add to the allure. Each chapter ends with a thought provoking section that has puzzles the reader can think on. The author has written many more Math Fun books, including a sequel- More Math Games and Activities from around the World.

There are so many more Math Fun books and activities here, here, here and here, to suit each pocket. Do try them.


Sheela said...

Shapes, Symmetry, Puzzles from around the world - ancient and modern - sounds like a great resource. Thank you for bringing this wonderful book, Sandhya, and a few more hidden treasures in the review :)

ranjani.sathish said...

It is fascinating Sandhya ! Using dot grids to tell stories ?! I am really intrigued. A child like glee has set in and I want to see the book NOW :-)

Choxbox said...

Sounds interesting S. Also like that you have added links to more places to explore this.

Don't you think one can also add a book of Montessori Math to the list?!

Choxbox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arundhati said...

Wonderful! I'll have to come back to this post :) (*rubbing hands in glee*)

Unknown said...

cool math games

Great idea for some math and movement. I love activities that get my kids moving. Thanks for sharing this one!


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