Illinois State University Mathematics Department

MAT 409: Topics in Algebra and Combinatorics for K-8 Teachers

Summer 2006 (June 19 to July 13)
1:25 to 4:15 pm MTWR STV 310
Dr. Roger Day (

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Session Notes
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Tests and Quizzes

Session 1: 19 June 2006

Combinatorics in the Real World
  • A high school teacher's discovery
  • A knock on my email door: What's the probability of a false miss?

Perfect Covers of Chess Boards
  • Description and Exploration
  • An Exemplary Combinatorics Problem Situation

The Pigeonhole Principle
  • An Initial Problem
  • Generalizing the Principle
  • A Concluding Problem

Summation and Product Notation

Course Information
Assignment #1


  • Preface (pp 1-4)
  • Intro (pp 5-11)
  • Chapter 1 Section 1 (pp 12-17)
  • Learning from Others (pp 21-23)


  • Pages 18-20: 3,4,5,8,9,12,13,14,one of 15-17
  • By 10:49 am Tuesday 6/20/06, email to me (; write MAT 409 Assignment #1 as subject line) your responses to:
    • (a) one of 3,4,5
    • (b) one of 8,9,12,13,14
    • (c) one of 15-17

Perfect Covers of Chess Boards

We will explore the problem of finding the perfect covers of an n-by-m rectangular chess board with dominoes measuring 2-by-1 units. A perfect cover means that there are no gaps or overlaps when we cover the board entirely with the dominoes.

We first consider two questions:

  1. What restrictions are there are n and m?
  2. How many ways are there to cover an n-by-m board?

We will work in small groups to determine the restrictions on m and n and ncourage multiple ways to justify our results. We will then consider the second question, again exploring the strategies used among the groups.

To extend the problem, we can look at a pruned 8-by-8 chess board. Does a perfect cover exist for such a board?

Another extension is to consider perfect covers of a j-by-k-by-l rectangular prism, using a 1-by-1-by-2 domino.

We'll carry out an activity designed to remix the student groups and to encourage you to get to know your colleagues. We will next return to the perfect cover problem and use our exploration to identify fundamental components of a problem-solving approach to combinatorics problems:

In using these key questions to exemplify the type of investigations that will underscore course activities, we will emphasize the need to justify our efforts as we progress in solving a problem. We will talk about the need to consider or search for elegant and creative ways to approach problems.

Grades & Grading
Session Notes
Assignments and Problem Sets
Tests and Quizzes