Outreach group aims to inspire mathematical interest

November 13, 2019

Outreach group aims to inspire mathematical interest

The Department of Mathematics is spreading the word about recreational math through its outreach program, Buckeye Aha! Math Moments, which uses brainteaser puzzles to spark an interest in math among the community, especially children from underrepresented

The Department of Mathematics is gaining the public’s attention through its outreach program, Buckeye Aha! Math Moments (BAMM).

BAMM, created by visiting assistant professor Érika Roldán Roa, takes a recreational approach to math, with a focus on sparking mathematical interest in young people of all ethnic groups, socioeconomic backgrounds and genders.

A Tetris-style puzzle that uses polyominoes comprising five squares instead of four. There’s a 3D version for those wanting an extra challenge.

A big way the group approaches this aim is by bringing enjoyably challenging brainteaser puzzles to events around Columbus, such as a Tetris-style game that uses shapes (or polyominoes) comprising five squares instead of four. There’s a 3D version for those particularly brave of heart. 

Another brainteaser includes “,” in which players are given a bag and two different colors of balls and after following specific instructions have to guess the color of the last ball in the bag. The "” assigns colors to numbers on a die that correspond to the vertices and various points of a triangle determined by a starting point chosen by the player, who sees if they can predict what pattern will emerge after several hundred rolls. Others involve tangrams and chess pieces.  

“Humans are created to get pleasure out of solving problems and puzzles, and one of our main purposes is to awake and provoke those ‘aha’ moments in people,” Roldán Roa said. “And those moments happen when you understand something in a different way — when you realize some deep interesting truth or relationships between objects or mathematical ideas that you have not seen before.”  

From a summer camp for high school girls to community workshops to appearances at COSI and the Clintonville Farmers’ Market, the math-based games have been fascinating children and adults alike.

Érika Roldán Roa

“There is no age limit for these kinds of puzzles. Each person will develop in that moment their own way of approaching the problem,” Roldán Roa said, adding that it’s important when guiding the activities to “not rush them into your way of thinking — it’s about following them in their own internal way of exploring the problem and trying to experience with them the way they are trying to solve it.”

Read more about Buckeye Aha! Math Moments >>

BAMM is supported by the Mathematics Advisory Board, the Department of Mathematics, and the College of Arts and Sciences Division of Natural and Mathematical Sciences.

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