Enjoying your summer hiatus or as busy as ever? I know that feeling!

1. MathNotations' Third Online Math Contest is tentatively scheduled for the week of Oct 12-16, a 5-day window to administer the 45-min contest and email the results. As with the previous contest, it will be FREE, up to two teams from a school may register and the focus for now will be on Geometry, Algebra II and Precalculus. Several other ideas are running through my head but I need the time to bring them to fruition. If any public, charter, prep, parochial or homeschool (including international school) is interested, send me an email ASAP to receive registration materials: "dmarain 'at' geeeemail dot com."

2. CNNMoney.com Article - Something to tell your students in September!

Here is the link. The 2nd paragraph says it all:

The top 15 highest-earning college degrees all have one thing in common -- math skills.3. Silly Instruments for Math Teachers to Play

I always told my students that I'm predominantly left-brained -- analytical, organized, detailed, process-oriented, algebraic -- as opposed to most of my children and my wife who are creative, spatial, mechanical, who see the forest more than the trees. One of my sons is a musician and another is a dancer so we are not always on the same wavelength! So I mentioned to my SAT students that I wish I had a more creative side and perhaps be able to play an instrument, but, in fact, the only thing I can "play" is my iPod! One of my students in the front row immediately responded, "I know an instrument you can play, Mr. M -- the triangle! I congratulated her for the cleverness and told her that maybe I will learn how to play the "cymbals." (the class actually applauded that lame attempt at word play!). In fact, I've read that many famous mathematicians were also musicians, so let us know: Do you play an instrument or are passionate about music or do you have a silly instrument for a mathematician to play?

4. Circle Packing Problems

Even though I am dominantly left-brained, I still enjoy challenging spatial geometry problems. I find these questions have improved my creativity and my spatial sense and they often involve multi-faceted thinking. Here are a couple of famous 'packing' problems which are accessible to geometry students. More important than solving these is to give our students a sense of the importance of packing problems and the ongoing research in this area. There are still unsolved problems here!

Although you can easily research packing problems on MathWorld and Wikipedia, the diagrams below come from an exceptional website I discovered. The author, Peter Szabo (missing accents), provides diagrams for packing 2-100 circles with accompanying data (radii, density, etc).

PROBLEM I

The two congruent circles at the left are actually enclosed in a unit square which is not shown.The circles are tangent to each other and to the sides of the square. If these circles have the maximum radius possible, determine the radius.

Note: The indicated square (assume it is a square) is helpful in solving the problem. Trig is not necessary here.

Answer (Yes, I'm providing this since the objective is to discuss the method):

[The following is the diameter, not the radius, of each circle. Thanks to watchmath for correcting this error].

PROBLEM II

Again, imagine that the three congruent circles at the left are enclosed in a unit square and are tangent to each other and to the sides of the square. If the circles have the maximum radius possible, determine this radius.

Notes: The indicated square again may be helpful to solve this problem. Trig can be used but clever use of special right triangles is preferred.

Answer:

[The diameter is given below, not the radius. Thanks to watchmatch for correcting this]