Polar Derivatives


The last Problem of the Week for 2011 is now posted, and it’s feeling all festive. Take a journey deep into the cold, barren wastelands of the Northern ice cap and search among the iceburgs to find a certain toymaker’s workshop. (In case you need help calculating the derivative of a polar equation.)

With a nod of his head and a wink of his eye, he will promptly ask you to stop trespassing, and for Christmas this year? A restraining order from Santa.

No, this is not how you planned things at all…

Cubism, Sadness, and Super Powers

Photo by fdecomite

Have you ever loved something so deeply, so meaningfully, so completely, so profoundly that it would really irk you if you dropped that thing into a bubbling vat of acid? I have, and so that you may learn from my tragedy, I will share a horrific tale from my past.

Once, on a whim, I spent an entire summer trying to carve a perfect cube from a piece of driftwood on the beach. Don’t ask why; this is what all math teachers do during summer break, and if teachers tell you otherwise, they are lying. Look at their hands carefully—they are probably whittling as they lie to you!

Click here to read more and to attempt the Problem of the Week.

Be Thankful for the Chain Rule


chain-1Long ago, in the early days of American history, a hearty band of pilgrims landed firmly on Plymouth Rock for two reasons: (1) they sought religious freedom, and (2) they mistimed their jumps, originally aiming for Plymouth Soft Sand and getting a nasty lump on their foreheads as a result. (See last week’s My First Cliff Diving Kit for more information, or visit your local library.)

These days we celebrate the seafaring and clumsy spirit of those pilgrims by gathering family together and calcuating derivatives. Enjoy this gravy-soaked chain rule Problem of the Week, and we’ll see you in two weeks, after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Diving into Rates of Change

Image by John O'Nolan
Image by John O’Nolan

Every holiday season, there’s one toy every child yearns for, the hot toy of the year that’s in short supply but high demand. In ages past, Cabbage Patch Kids, Furbies, and Tickle Me Elmos topped the sales charts, but not this year. No sir (or madam, as the case may be).

In the new Problem of the Week, we announce this year’s must have toy: My First Cliff Diving Kit! You’ll be the talk of the town as you plummet from astronomical heights, narrowly dodging razor-sharp rocks, and land in water less than four feet deep. The only thing you’ll be tickling is your fancy (or the side of the hospital bed in a desperate request for additional painkillers because you forgot to calculate for wind on your most recent dive).

Derivatives of Table Functions

Image: ahmet guler / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: ahmet guler / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By special request, the October 8 Problem of the Week is all about derivatives of tabular functions. “What are tabular functions,” you ask? They’re mysteries–only a few of their values are given in the form of a table, and you aren’t provided with the actual functions themselves.

“How am I supposed to take the derivative of a function I don’t know,” you ask? Geesh! Enough with the questions already. Just click here and get crackin’.

Particle Man Hates Triangle Man


In this week’s Problem of the Week, you get to know Particle Man. As you’d expect, he does the sorts of things a particle can. What’s he actually like? What makes Particle Man tick? It’s not important. Particle Man.

And then you will explore the deep-seated enmity between Particle Man and his arch-nemesis, Triangle Man. Spoiler alert: They have a fight and Triangle wins. Triangle Man.

Actually, you’re not going to do any of that this week, but I thank They Might Be Giants for saving me from having to write an actual intro. Click here to try this week’s Problem of the Week, about the motion of a particle (man).

B-B-B-Betty and the Jet


In this day and age of reality television and celebrity obsession, what could get better ratings than shooting Betty White out of a cannon? To make things even more dangerous, what if the producers planted the cannon in an area with heavy jet traffic? Anwers to these questions and more in Problem of the Week #4, now posted! (Betty White was not harmed in the construction of this Problem.)