Maze Game: Land or Water?

This was a fun activity from Moebius Noodles for our PK-1st grade Homeschool Math in the Park group. The children take turns making a maze and setting a dinosaur inside. Then the other dinosaurs (parents or siblings) try to guess whether their friend is on the land or in the water.

Player #1

(1) First, draw a big circle on the white board. This is your lake.

(2) With a finger or a bit of cloth, erase a small section of the circle to create the opening for your maze.

(3) Starting at one edge of the opening, draw a random squiggle inside the circle. Make your squiggle end at the other edge of the opening.

(4) Set your dinosaur anywhere inside the maze.

Player #2

(1) Now it’s your turn to guess. Is the dinosaur standing on the land? Is it swimming in the water?

(2) How will you figure out if you guessed right?

(3) Check by jumping across the lines of the maze. Each jump takes you across a boundary: Splash! (Into the water.) Thump! (Back on the land.) Splash! Thump! … Until you reach the dinosaur inside.

(4) Or go to the maze entrance and walk your dinosaur along the path. Can you find your way?

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Skit: Knights and Knaves Logic Puzzles

photo by puuikibeach via flickr

Our homeschool co-op held an end-of-semester assembly. Each class was supposed to demonstrate something they had learned. I planned to set up a static display showing some of our projects, like the fractal pop-up card and the game of Nim, but the students voted to do a skit based on the logic puzzles of Raymond Smullyan.

We had a small class (only four students), but you can easily divide up the lines make room for more players. We created signs from half-sheets of poster board with each native’s line on front and whether she was a knight or knave on the flip side. In the course of a skit, there isn’t enough time to really think through the puzzles, so the audience had to vote based on first impressions — which gave us a fair showing of all opinions on each puzzle.

By Denise Gaskins Posted in Puzzles

Alexandria Jones and the Mathematical Carnival

Maria Jones hung up the phone and collapsed at the kitchen table. She buried her head in her hands and groaned. Alex looked up from her game of Solitaire.

“Let me guess,” she said. “Can’t-Say-No Syndrome, again?”

Mrs. Jones nodded. “This time I volunteered to plan an activity for next month’s homeschool group meeting.”

Leon wandered in and pulled an apple from the fruit bowl. “Ha!” he said. “She means she volunteered us to plan an activity, right?”

Mrs. Jones smiled. “That’s my motto: When in doubt, delegate!”

My New Project: Blogging 2 Learn

Beginning in January, I will teach a 4th-12th grade Blogging 2 Learn class through our local homeschool co-op. For now, here is my research blog, testing ideas and trying to imagine myself as a new blogger:

Have you used blogs with your students? If so, I would love to hear your suggestions and comments. And whether you are an experienced or a wanna-be blogger, please share: What do you think a “Blogging to Learn” class should cover?

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May Math Calendar

April showers have ushered in May flowers — and a second Math Calendar, with daily puzzles from my homeschool co-op students. Get your copy here:

Puzzle: Factoring Trinomials

My high school class ended the year with a review of multiplying and factoring simple polynomials. We played this matching game, and then I gave them a puzzle worksheet. I liked this idea, but I didn’t like the decoded answer. In my opinion, puzzles should give the student a “reward” for solving them — maybe a joke or riddle or something — but that answer seemed almost like nagging.

So I changed things around to make my own version:

Math Club Plans

[Photo by FXR [aka Soundz’FX].]

Our homeschool co-op classes start today, and I’m not ready. I never am. Life keeps going, anyway.

Substitute Teacher Experiments with Combinatorics

Photo by peigianlong.

Here is a puzzle from Just a Substitute Teacher:

Lesson plan entry: “Hand out worksheet packets and have students staple before starting. They know what to do.”

Sounds simple enough! Four numbered sheets, eight total pages, printed front and back. What could go wrong?

Do you know how many possible combinations four pieces of paper can be arranged for stapling?

Way To Go, Boys!

Congratulations, math team! All your hard work paid off, and I hope you enjoyed yourselves thoroughly. Of course, as C. S. Lewis wrote:

…if you do one good deed, your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.

Now it’s time to practice for the state level in March. You can find practice problems online at:

Preparation Drills for MATHCOUNTS
or
The “Go Figure!” math challenge
[ACK! MathCounts has re-written their website. The old link is no longer any good, but I haven’t yet found the new location for this game.]

And give the new interactive Countdown Round game a try:

AoPS For The Win!

More Fun with Hexa-Trex

My elementary Math Club students had fun practicing their math facts and “out of the box” thinking with Hexa-Trex puzzles. The object of Hexa-Trex is to find a path through all the number and operation tiles to make a true equation. The “Easy” puzzles are just the right level for my 4th-5th grade students, although they get stumped whenever the equations require Order of Operations. One girl enjoyed the puzzles enough to take our extra pages home for her dad.

Hexa-Trex puzzles were featured in the October issue of Games magazine, and now you can enjoy Hexa-Trex away from the computer with Bogusia Gierus‘s new book, The First Book of Hexa-Trex Puzzles. If you are thinking ahead to Christmas (can it be that time already?!), and if you have a puzzle lover in the family, this little book would make a fun stocking-stuffer.

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Quotations XVI: Back to the Blackboard

Classes are back in session at our homeschool co-op, so I am again collecting short quotes for the blackboard. Here are the ones I used in September:

Any fool can know. The point is to understand.

Life without geometry is pointless.

You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way.

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Quotations XIII: Mathematics Education Is Much More Complicated than You Expected

Registrations have been rolling in for our homeschool co-op, and the most popular classes are full already. Math doesn’t seem to be a “most popular” class. I can’t imagine why! Still, many of my students from last year are coming back for another go, and I am getting spill-over from the science class waiting list.

Anyway, I have started planning in earnest for our fall session. As usual, I look to those wiser than myself for inspiration…

Many teachers are concerned about the amount of material they must cover in a course. One cynic suggested a formula: since, he said, students on the average remember only about 40% of what you tell them, the thing to do is to cram into each course 250% of what you hope will stick.

How To Start a Homeschool Math Club

From a recent e-mail:

Hello! I am on the board of a homeschool co-op. We have had requests for a math club and wondered if you have any tips for starting one. We service children from K-10th and would need to try to meet the needs of as many ages as possible.

There are several ways you might organize a homeschool math club, depending on the students you have and on your goals. I think you would have to split the students by age groups — it is very hard to keep that wide of a range of students interested. Then decide whether you want an activity-oriented club or a more academic focus.

When I started my first math club, I raided the math shelves in the children’s section at my library (510-519) for anything that interested me. I figured that if an activity didn’t interest me, I couldn’t make it fun for the kids. Over the years we have done a variety of games, puzzles, craft projects, and more — always looking for something that was NOT like whatever the kids would be doing in their textbooks at home.

How Can We Teach Problem Solving?

We continue to plan our co-op courses for next fall. Some of the classes I had hoped for will not happen, and my children are going to have to make some tough choices between the remaining topics. Unfortunately, they have not yet mastered the ability to be in two classrooms at once.

I have three math courses to plan, and I think I will focus as much as I can on teaching math through problems, even at the elementary level. These are once-a-week enrichment classes for homeschooled students, so I assume they have a “normal” math program at home. I want to introduce a few topics they might not otherwise see, to deepen their understanding of the topics they have studied, and to give them a taste of that “Aha!” feeling that comes from conquering a challenging problem. Has anybody done something like this, and can you recommend some good resources?

How To Harness Metacognitive Decision-Making

To organize a homeschool co-op requires an awesome team of innovative planners. The e-mails keep flying as we attempt to generate dynamic problem-solving strategies. Our goal for the fall semester is to orchestrate learning intensive experiences that will encourage real-world critical thinking in our upper-level students, while at the same time maximizing developmentally- appropriate enrichment for our preschool and elementary communities.

Now you, too, can talk just like a school system bureaucrat with this handy-dandy Educational Jargon Generator. Have fun!

[Hat tip: Matthew Tabor.]

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Spring, the Season for Planning…

Oops! No Alexandria Jones post this week. My writing time has been overtaken by the monster school supply catalog (“Mom, haven’t you ordered my books yet?!“) and by yesterday’s co-op planning meeting and today’s 13 (so far!) follow up emails.

Planning a homeschool co-op is a little bit like juggling kittens. No matter how careful you are, something is going to get scratched. Several of the classes I was hoping for did not draw enough interest in the public polling, but of those that remain, I would like my students to study:

dd#1 — drama, photography, sewing, Spanish, writing, guitar, and biology lab
ds — drama, photography, writing, Spanish, guitar, PE/health, and maybe biology
dd#2 — art, sewing, cooking, music, science, and maybe PE/health
[Wouldn’t you know it, not a single one of my kids wants to take any of their mom’s math classes. :) ]

Problem:
We only offer three class periods. And dd#1 plans to teach karate during one of those time slots.

Well, whatever else works or doesn’t work out, I sure hope we can get the lady who took these pictures to teach that photography class.

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Skit: The Handshake Problem

[Feature photo above by Tobias Wolter (CC-BY-SA-3.0) via Wikimedia Commons.]

If seven people meet at a party, and each person shakes the hand of everyone else exactly once, how many handshakes are there in all?

In general, if n people meet and shake hands all around, how many handshakes will there be?

Our homeschool co-op held an end-of-semester assembly. Each class was supposed to demonstrate something they had learned. I threatened to hand out a ten question pop quiz on integer arithmetic, but instead my pre-algebra students presented this skit. You may adjust the script to fit the available number of players.

Story Problem Challenge Revisited

Well, I didn’t get any takers with the last story problem challenge. But school is in full session now, and we’re doing story problems in Math Club this Friday, so I thought I’d try again.

Here’s the challenge: Can you and your students make up some original math problems?

In Math Club, we always start by reading part of the book Math by Kids for inspiration. I can’t print those stories here, however, because of copyright rules, so I’ll share some of the stories my past students have made, arranged in roughly increasing order of difficulty. After you solve a couple of these problems with your children, encourage them to try making some of their own.

And please, share their gems with us!

Update

The problems below are now available as a printable handout: Story Problem Challenge.

Set Daily Puzzle

The spring semester of homeschool co-op classes starts tomorrow, and I still have a couple of handouts to prepare and several pages of notes to go over in preparation. So naturally, I find myself flitting from here to there on my computer, browsing new links and cleaning out the old.

As the saying goes:

“I used to be an amateur crastinator, but now I’ve turned pro.”

In a dusty pile of long-neglected bookmarks, I rediscovered this treasure:

Set Daily Puzzle

I love this game!

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By Denise Gaskins Posted in Games

Math Quotes IV: Natural Numbers Are Better…

[Rescued from my old blog.]

As I get my notes together for today’s co-op classes, I’ll share a couple of blackboard quotes for your enjoyment:

Math Quotes III: Five out of Four People

[Rescued from my old blog.]

I’ve been procrastinating my preparations for co-op classes this week, but I think I’m ready. I almost forgot the scissors, but now I have them in my bag, so we will be able to cut the “infinite pizza” pieces. And I have two fun quotes for the blackboard: