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Math Cats News, issue #14, April 14, 2003

To: Friends of Math Cats
From: Wendy Petti []
Subject: Math Cats News (issue #14, April 14, 2003)

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Dear Friends of Math Cats,

Greetings after a long silence!




When the Math Cats and young Emily visited geometric sculptor George Hart, the silly cats scrambled all over George's power tools and sculptures - and even perched on George himself! - while he talked about his lifelong passion for turning math into art. Come along on the visit!


You've never seen a balance scale like this before! How many jumping cats balance with a donkey? How many dinosaurs balance with a house? How many skyscrapers balance with a moon? How many planets balance with a black hole? On this balance you can place objects as tiny as electrons or as huge as a galaxy. It's a whole new way to explore the world.


The April - May contest topic is "A World Without Circles." Please enter the contest and help spread the word! You can also read the winning entries from the first two writing contests: "Why Do We Have Math?" and "When the Math Cats Came to Town."



In the United States, April is considered Math Awareness Month, and this year's theme is "Math and Art." But at Math Cats, *every* day is a celebration of math and art! Our new visit with the geometric sculptor is just one example.

Math Cats also features 9 math crafts you can make off-line and 17 online projects connecting math and art. Visit the Math Cats Site Map to find them easily!


                 BEHIND THE SCENES:
           Developing the Math Cats Balance

The new Math Cats Balance was a collaboration with Maurici Carbó Jordi, the Spanish architect who developed OBBL Architecture Blocks. It all started when Maurici helped to fix a problem in the code for the Math Cats' age calculator a few months ago and the wheels of creativity began whirring in his brain. He wrote in his slightly broken English:

"Looking at that code, I was thinking in a little application for you: What do you think about a MathCats weighing machine? (in javascript) (and very near to your age calculator) With some graphics. To weigh all:

How much cats weighs an elephant?
How much moons weighs Earth?

You select elephants left (in a selection list) And cats at right, and you try to equilibrate multiplying the number of cats to weigh as an elephant.

I was thinking in a strange way to program, imitating a true oscillating balance:

It allows to weigh jumping cats
(1 cat is unstable) (100 cats are stable)

I was thinking in a list of things to weigh:
Fly, little mouse, thin cat, fat cat, jumping cat, Earth, Moon, Mars, The Sun ...."

With that, a great idea was born! Maurici developed the code and I put together the graphics and the help page. The code evolved gradually over many weeks. Sometimes Maurici wrote reassurances:

"If you don't wish to show strange things, like atoms or galaxies, don't worry. This program is flexible enough. We can transform it to weigh any thing. Including jumping things."

When I wrote later to ask Maurici how he ever thought of this unusual balance, he replied:

"I wish to tell you what is the origin of our Balancing program. When I was thinking on your age calculator, I was thinking:
It must say 'And your Birthday was in Tuesday'
I was thinking to add something like:
'And the moon was in Quarter crescent'
And I figured a little drawing:
A cat on a tile roof, looking at the moon.

The balancing program is about the thoughts of this cat."

We love the way Maurici's mind works, and we love the new Math Cats Balance!




Have you seen the new section of Math Tools at the Math Forum? The materials are under development; right now you can view materials for grade 2, grade 7, and precalculus, but many of the materials are of interest to a broad age range. These resources link to useful math software (mostly free online applets), accompanied by lesson plans and activities.



I'd like to remind you of two of Math Cats' favorite math toys: Polydron and Zome geometry construction kits. You can read more about them here:


These are great resources for classroom use, and our family loves to travel with our little suitcase of Frameworks (a see-through type of Polydron). Please take note of the purchasing suggestion on this page to save shipping costs when ordering in the U.S.



Be sure to drop me a line if your e-mail address will be changing so that you'll continue to receive Math Cats News at your new address. Simply reply to this message to tell me your new preferred address. (If you wish to unsubscribe, reply to this message with the word "unsubscribe" and your e-mail address.)


If you like the Math Cats site and Math Cats News, I hope you will help spread the word. Please forward this Math Cats News to others! If you have received this Math Cats News as a forwarded e-mail and would like to subscribe, you can sign up in the "4 older cats" area of Math Cats:


Wendy Petti, the one human at Math Cats

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© copyright 2003-   Wendy Petti of Math Cats.   All Rights Reserved.