I’m a single parent of two elementary school children, a mathematician, and designer of puzzles and board games. Students call me Dr. Pickle. There is nothing I enjoy more than stumping students and having them stump me.
Founder & Designer
I’m a strategy game player, math educator and the director of the Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival. There is nothing I enjoy more than seeing kids persevere through tough problem solving. Puzzles are more fun the harder they get.
MathPickle was founded in 2010 to inject new ideas into the classroom. It is the driving force to get curricular unsolved problems into classrooms worldwide – one for each grade K-12. A conference in November 2013 established the thirteen unsolved problems. To aid with the dissemination, MathPickle is seeking a $1,000,000 reward – the prize money to be split between the person who solves a problem and their most inspirational K-12 educator.
In 2015, MathPickle and The Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences hosted a conference to select one Integer Sequence for each grade K-12 (see them here.) The grade 4 selection was written up here and went on to win the 2016 Polya award from the Mathematics Association of America.
MathPickle is also developing a range of curricular puzzles several of which have been published in the New York Times. These help teachers them with their number one challenge:
“How to engage the spectrum of student ability?”
Whenever an elementary school teacher wants to teach addition, she will invariably face 20% of students who already know how to add and another 20% who are struggling with last year’s curriculum. How can she engage the top students without losing the bottom students? How can she engage the bottom students without boring the top students?
One solution: Parents of top students often ask that their child be allowed to accelerate through the curriculum. This exacerbates the problem for future teachers, and sets up a failure-impoverished education experience for the bright student.
A wiser approach is to use curricular puzzles, games and mini-competitions to simultaneously teach curriculum to the students who need it, and to deflect top students into tough problem solving activities. This is never time wasted, because problem solving is the primary reason we teach mathematics.
The experience of mathematics should be profound and beautiful. Too much of the regular K-12 mathematics experience is trite and true. Children deserve tough, beautiful puzzles.