Puzzling Math

    I remember when I was growing up we always had a lot of different types of puzzles in the house.  Contrary to what my student think, that was not before television, we just lived differently than students do now.  In winter we always had a jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table and would work on it a few minutes (or more) each day until it was done–and if it looked like it was going to be finished after I went to bed I would take a few pieces with me to have the last placement.

    I think this is why I am good at problem solving, those puzzles served a purpose.  It slows down or calms down the rest of me while my brain is able to focus on patterns.  I tried using jigsaw puzzles in the classroom for enrichment, but it just takes too long to put one together.  Then I began using math puzzles.

    Most have 12-16 pieces and I use two different types, some with blank edges and some with distractor answers/problems on the edges to make it a little more challenging. This way that super fast kid that finishes first can be slowed down a little while others who are struggling can be successful.

    I gave them a hint that it helps to start by matching up pairs and then taping them.  When I first started using them, I was gluing.  BIG MISTAKE. They match up the wrong pieces and then get frustrated when they try to take them apart, or want to start over.  Starting over means never finishing! With tape, and I mean taping the pieces together, not taping them to anything else, they can just cut things apart. I put letters on the pieces to help some of them get the pieces facing the right direction, and help with an answer key.

    But some of them were so distracted by the letters, thinking they have to spell out a secret message.  I kept saying no, there is no message, but I think next time I will make a message for them.

    When they were finished, I hung them up on the whiteboard.  I know, students were able to go look and get hints to finish their own.  But what was the purpose of the puzzle?  To trick them, to stump them?  No, it was to get them to match square roots with their answers, so if they had to go look, then good for them.                                                    

    They did a great job, and while I won’t use puzzles every week, I think they need some more problem solving activities, so I will keep thinking about incorporating some more. If you want to try this, here is the link: Square Root Puzzle Or find more puzzles here: 
    4 Different Puzzles

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