Thursday, May 19, 2016

Another puzzle video -- going meta on Dudeney's Beer Barrel Puzzle

First off, you'll notice that things look a bit different. A friend of mine who works in postproduction (welcome to LA) made up an opening title sequence for the series. The video still looks like something done quickly on the cheap, but hopefully we've gotten to the point where the amateurism is not distracting.

My main focus here and what I want to direct your attention to is the meta. The central idea which is basically taken from George Pólya is that mathematics instruction should be less concerned with individual problems and more concerned with teaching the process of problem solving.

Puzzles are a natural fit for this concept. Their value for explicitly introducing heuristics has been demonstrated by any number of smart people such as Pólya, Martin Gardner (particularly in the Aha! books) and Raymond Smullyan, but the approach has never gotten the traction it deserves, perhaps because it requires both mathematical sophistication and a sense of humor, two qualities sadly lacking in both in traditional education programs and in the reform movement.

With that objective in mind, take a look, let me know what you think, and, if you're so inclined, feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested.

I used this problem as a jumping off point to discuss trial and error methods. For the more mathematically inclined, Dudeney's original solution might be of more interest.

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