Saturday, May 26, 2018

Puzzle Place and other Ponderings

Disclaimer:  This post might be somewhat of a ramble - sorry about that!

Back in December, as part of #MTBoS12Days, I used the prompt "Something I want to Try" as share about wanting to try a puzzle / play table in my classroom this spring as inspired by MTBoS, but I've not really reported much on it other than in a few #MyFavFriday posts!

This Year:

When we came back to school in January, I had set up a small area on top of my filing cabinet with a "puzzle place".  I also realized today that I REALLY need to take an updated picture, because the picture at the left is what it looked like in January, but not quite what it looks like now! :)  Oh well...

Each Monday, I put out a new puzzle, often printed straight from @mathequalslove's blog or elsewhere on the internet.  I store all of these puzzles in a binder with the cut out pieces and instructions.  On the wall of the "puzzle place", I've put a sheet protector to hold a copy of the instructions each week with the puzzle actually on the filing cabinet.  In addition to the puzzles I've printed, I've also found various puzzles at thrift stores, dollar stores, and even used the "Cracker Barrel" triangle puzzle one week!

One of my Geometry classes has REALLY enjoyed the puzzle table and it's not uncommon to see them steal the puzzle to take back to their seats.  The star puzzle in the right picture came from Dollar Tree and was one of the most popular ones this year!  It's been really fun to watch my students' reactions each week.  In fact, each Monday, my student aid immediately goes to the puzzle place to see if he can figure out that week's puzzle.  :)

Random Ponderings about the Future...
It's not official, but I am pretty sure that I will be teaching Geometry again next year, so I gave a feedback survey to my students yesterday to ask them what to Start / Stop / Continue.  I was pleasantly surprised at the number of students that mentioned how much they enjoyed Mental Math Monday, puzzles, games, and almost all of the "Start" comments were about doing MORE of this type of activity.

As a result of this feedback, I decided last night to re-join NCTM so that I would have access to their archive of Mathematics Teacher Calendars, which often have GREAT geometry and logic/brain teaser puzzles, such as this one from 1994:

I had already written on my "next year" list to do more puzzles from @1to9Puzzle, but now I'm trying to figure out how to best incorporate this student request in my classes...

Here are my current thoughts:
  • Daily Warmups - I know several students mentioned Mental Math Mondays, which is an adaptation of the 24 puzzle where I use one of the 24 cards and challenge the students to write expressions to equal ALL of the numbers 1-24.  This was a great way to get our brains moving on Mondays.  I could expand this idea to have a different type of puzzle / question each day.  I've also thought about trying Number Talks with my students, so that could be part of it too?
  • Weekly Challanges / Hallway Puzzles - I still really like this idea from Sara Vanderwref's blog on put math-y puzzles out in the hallway each week.  When I taught Geometry about 10 years ago, I would put up a weekly challenge in my classroom with a math-y puzzle for them to solve and submit their answer for a drawing.  I like the hallway idea a lot, but part of me wants to keep it in my classroom to help promote that sense of playing with math with my own students.

In addition to all of this, my first #EduRead book of the summer has been Tracy Zagar's 'Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had" an it has really sparked a desire to have my kids explore and play with math more.  I want to promote that feeling of being a mathematician instead of being in math class.

The cherry on top was a blog post I ran across this morning from Math With Bad Drawings about The State of Being Stuck.  I find it really interesting to observe the willingness of students to be stuck on a puzzle / brain teaser but NOT willing to be stuck on a "math problem".  

How do we promote this sense of accomplishment and to help our students see themselves as problem solvers rather than pencil pushers?

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