A palindrome is a word or phrase (or string of numbers) that reads the same front-to-back and back-to-front.

There’re the little ones, like Wow, Mom, Dad and Hannah.

Then there are big ones, like this one from Jon Agee:

Go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog.

But there are also words, phrases and names that are almost palindromes.

But how “almost” is an almost palindrome?

You can measure the “almost” of a palindrome with a palindrome number (or PALN for short). Here are the rules:

Adjust the word or name using any of these:

Switch any two adjacent letters.

Insert a letter anywhere in the word.

Remove any letter from the word.

For each of these increase the PALN by one. The smallest numer of these adjustments that can be made and still have an intelligible sounding “word,” is the palindrome number or PALN.

Watch how it works…

Start with something that is an “almost palindrome” – something that has a palindrome in it or lots of the same letters. The go crazy, like this:

William – the bold part is a palindrome

We can remove three letters to be left with “illi.” Or we can add A, M and W to the word to get “Mawilliwam.” Either is pronounceable and yields the PALN=3.

mathchat – the bold part is a palindrome and the parts in italics are the same letters

Remove the M and then switch the first A and T. So the resulting palindrome is “tahchat.” PALN=2.

Susannah – bold part is a palindrome and so is the italics part

As nice as this looks, its PALN is much larger than the other two. Removing the H is helpful, and then adding an extra SUS at the end gives a PALN=4. The result is “Susannasus.”

Hanna – SO close!

PALN=1. Simply remove the H or add an H for Hannah or Anna.

You can use this to teach math!

Math is about patterns as much as it is about numbers. Recognizing those almost palindromes and playing with them improves cognitive thinking.

Keep your eyes peeled everyday for almost-palindromes. Use the opportunities to teach math in a way that doesn’t even seem like math.