My wife has taken on the challenge of homeschooling our children this year. My main participation in this is a weekly math session with the kids in the evening on any subject of my choosing!

Tonight was our first session. I decided to do partitions with them. I am priming them to be able to help me with my research on Q1 graphs.

We pulled out cubical blocks and I told the kids to make partitions with them. The hardest part about this is keeping my mouth shut and staying out of their way.

B invented Ferrers diagrams. Meanwhile I set A to work on making all partitions of the small numbers. She found 1 partition of 1, 2 partitions of 2 and 3 partitions of 3. She started working on 4 and found 4 partitions. Then B chimed in with a 5th partition of 4. This upset A and she refused to accept it as a partition, because it didn’t follow the pattern that she had seen. She stormed off, but came back and was ready to accept the 5th partition of 4.

I tried to get them thinking about how we could know that we had got all of them. They haven’t come up with anything along those lines yet. B (of his own volition) started working on an algorithm to generate all of the partitions of a given number. The algorithm needs work, so far only generating the n partitions of n: (1,1,…,1), (2,1,1,..,1), (3,1,1,..,1),…,(n-1,1), (n). He was also working on an algorithm for getting partitions of n+1 from partitions of n. I think that one was pretty incomplete too.

Their minds were still going, but it was getting late, so I sent them to bed. It was a good evening of math.

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Go Arlynda! I’m sure she is a very good teacher.

This isn’t related to partitions, but on a Southwest flight recently I discovered a game called takegaki in the in-flight magazine. (I don’t know whether they have appeared anywhere besides the Southwest in-flight magazine.) It was fun but frustrating because a method of solving it was not (and still is not) obvious to me. It seemed like just the kind of math game you’d have fun with and like to show your kids. I would be very interested in any theorems that B and A come up with about takegaki, especially whether there is an algorithm to solve them that doesn’t involve guessing.