This blog is about Simon, a young gifted mathematician and programmer, who had to move from Amsterdam to Antwerp to be able to study at the level that fits his talent, i.e. homeschool. Visit https://simontiger.com

Simon has been pondering a lot about various ways to visualize or prove the quadratic formula.

He eventually came up with a 4-meter-long quiz sheet, slowly revealing the logic behind the quadratic formula as one solves the 9 problems one by one. Simon borrowed the actual problems from Brilliant.org but reworded some of them to match his personal style, writing all of them down in his beautiful handwriting on large sheets of paper taped together to form a road to the quadratic formula. The answers were hidden under crafty paper flaps. We had a lot of fun traveling down this rabbit hole as a family, Neva stuck around solving the tasks until half-way through.

For over a month, Simon has been fascinated by Presh Talwalkar’s channel Mind Your Decisions. The channel is full of short videos on famous math problems, logic riddles, proofs and mental math tricks. Simon has also ordered a compilation of Talwalkar’s five most interesting books, including “The Joy of Game Theory: An Introduction to Strategic Thinking”, that we are currently very much enjoying together, and four more, that Simon is reading on his own: “40 Paradoxes in Logic, Probability, and Game Theory”, “The Irrationality Illusion: How To Make Smart Decisions And Overcome Bias”, “The Best Mental Math Tricks”, and “Multiply Numbers By Drawing Lines”.

This one became Simon’s favourite brain teaser. It sounds like it’s filled with irrelevant information, but somewhat counterintuitively, every little bit of information in this puzzle helps! Here is the puzzle: A mathematician tells a census taker he has 3 children. The product of their ages is 72 and the sum of their ages is the house number. The census taker tries to figure it out but explains he still does not know. The mathematician says, “Of course not. I forgot to tell you my oldest child loves chocolate chip cookies.” Now the census taker figures it out. What are the ages of the children?

Simon has also picked up many nifty tricks and beautiful magic squares, both from the book and from the YouTube channel.

Multiplication by drawing lines has been a huge hit, Simon has also taught this method to his sister and a friend in Amsterdam:

During the vacation, Simon worked on several programming projects playing with language and grammar, from Daniel Shiffman’s Programming from A to Z course at New York University. Those included creating a new context free grammar sentence generator, using a markov chain in a Google form, creating a diastic machine with JQuery and making a regular expressions tester in JavaScript.

Simon’s progress in Chinese over the last couple of weeks. It’s funny how he writes neat cursive English words alongside the characters during the Mandarin lessons but hates writing cursive the rest of the time, with a few exceptions.

Simon was doing sentence analysis (something that he quite likes), but this time it involved writing (and he hates physical writing). Even though he has been writing since age 3 and enjoyed teaching himself most beautiful fonts and cursives at ages 4 and 5, he currently hates writing things down and prefers typing, getting impressively quick on both qwerty and azerty keyboards. While toiling away with his exhausting worksheet today he mumbled: “I think I’m writing in a fixed width font. That’s also called a monospace font sometimes”. I laughed and put down what he said, because it sounded really funny in that context. He brightened up at my interest, got up and gave me a sudden presentation about the 5 kinds of fonts: Sans-Serif (normal fonts without serifs, such as Arial or Helvetica), Serif (like Times New Roman or Georgia), Monospace (or fixed width fonts), Cursive (to emulate handwriting) and Fantasy (fonts for decoration, like Impact). He then got back to his worksheet. This way we sort of teach each other.