Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Happy birthday, Paul Erdős!

Here’s a caricature I made of “the man who loved only numbers” for his 101st birthday. 
Paul Erdos caricature

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pi Day Challenge

Here’s a fun site for your lateral thinking students (who also know some geometry).  In their words,

A team of logicians adapted or created these puzzles - some require research, some require mathematics, some require pure savvy.

Pi Day Challenge

pi day challenge

A lot of the problems don’t have anything to do with pi, and some of the presentation is a little janky, but it’s still fun.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pi art ideas

I recently came across some cool ideas for blending up art and math for younger kids at – just in time for Pi Day next Friday!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Permutation of the Bells

I came across this picture I took while visiting the bell tower of the Old Post Office in Washington, D.C. a couple of years ago.  It describes how the bells are occasionally rung in a “full peal,” consisting of all possible permutations of their tones.  With 6 bells, you get 6! = 6*5*4*3*2*1 = 720 permutations, which could be rung in under an hour, but with 7 bells, you get 7! = 7*720 = 5040 patterns to ring!

I thought maybe this would involve listing the set of permutations in increasing numerical order:


But In the example they showed, it seems that the pattern is to first swap neighbors in 3 groups:

12 34 56
21 43 65

And then to keep the first and last positions in place but swap neighbors in the 2 groups inside:

2 14 36 5
2 41 63 5


I can’t tell if that’s all there is to the method or not, and I wonder if there’s a proof that the method produces all permutations.  A quick test with 4 bells shows that you don’t get all 24 permutations before it repeats.