Regular readers of this blog will know what a big fan I am of Tarsia puzzles. If you don’t know what Tarsia puzzles are just visit this page on Craig Barton’s blog for a full explanation of how to get the free software and lots of pre-made puzzles to download.

Until recently I had just used Tarsia puzzles as an individual or paired activity. I saw the option of printing the puzzle much larger (one piece per sheet of A4) and decided to give the one large puzzle to the class to solve collaboratively. The result was the following:

This puzzle, about multiplying and dividing by 10, 100 and 1000 was completed by a bottom set year 8 class with about 10 pupils there that day. I gave them a mini-whiteboard each to do their workings on and did not allow them use of a calculator. Pupils were reasonably proficient at this skill entering the lesson having spent two lessons using my kinaesthetic resource for this topic. This was the first time they had done it without the manipulatives as aids however.

What was most pleasing about the wonderful achievement of this class during this lesson was the engagement of the pupils. They were all committed to completing the puzzle and there were lots of wonderful discussions about the concepts of this digits moving left or right. At times some pupils were teaching each other. The teamwork the class showed was superb and I congratulated them on this aspect, just as much as their mathematical achievement.

I would thoroughly recommend using whole-class Tarsia puzzles as an activity to engage pupils. It promotes discussion of concepts, reasoning and a work ethic where everyone is pulling towards a common goal. If you have a large class you might like to divide it into two and give each half a puzzle and get them competing to see which team can correctly finish it first.

# 3D coordinates puzzle

Image via Wikipedia

The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) produces some fantastic resources. Here’s one of them! A puzzle involving 3D coordinates where pupils have to use the given clues to find the buried treasure in a 3D grid. Great for a group investigation or a homework

# Are your pupils creative enough to solve this one? How fast are the trains?

I’ve yet to find a pupil that can solve the problem below but what is lovely about this problem is that most pupils can access it and have some ideas about how to solve it. It hooks them but provides a real challenge to solve it. There are many methods you can use to solve the problem and it is lovely to see some pupils using algebra, some using speed = distance / time, some using trial and error, some using speed-time graphs, some using inequalities etc.

The solution is that one train is twice as fast as the other. Here’s the algebraic proof that I came up with:

# Maths meets fun with interactive online logic puzzle games

Image via Wikipedia

The next time you are in the computer room and looking for an alternative to the excellent MyMaths, consider sending your students to these interactive online logic puzzle games. This brand new page on the Great Maths Teaching Ideas website features lots of classic logic puzzle games that promote problem solving and arithmetic skills. The puzzles are supplied by the excellent Conceptis Puzzles website and are updated daily.

There is a puzzle for all abilities of student from Dot-To-Dot (renamed Dot-a-Pix) right up to the fiendishly difficult Hashi. Classic Sudoku is in there with other classics like Battleships and Kakuro. Maze-a-Pix is a classic maze solving game with the twist that when you colour in the solution path it creates a picture!

The Interactive Online Puzzle Games webpage will now live on the resources page which you get to by clicking on the ‘resources’ tab at the top of the website.

Great for computer room or cover lessons or just to flex your own mental muscle now and again…

Have fun!

# Spice up revision… a general knowledge maths crossword

Looking for an engaging activity for general revision of GCSE maths concepts and vocabulary? This maths general knowledge crossword has served me well and takes most pupils at least one lesson. Alternatively it can be used as a lesson starter where they do ten minutes on it at the start of a sequence of lessons.

I’ve found that pupils really engage with this puzzle and getting them to finish it for homework is a nice tactic as it promotes independent learning skills when they have to do a bit of research to find the answers.

The science-whizz-kid pupils will notice that the answer to 1 across “what is measured in kilograms?” should be “mass” rather than “weight”.

# Curvy Areas- because every maths teacher needs NRich Maths

If you haven’t seen the NRich Maths website where have you been?! It’s a fantastic source of enriching activities. It’s usually my first port of call when I’m looking for ‘something a bit different’ for my own classes. Many of the resources are interactive and look great on the interactive white board.

Each month NRich publishes a ‘virtual magazine’ which features some puzzles. You can get your classes working on the puzzles and they can submit their solution to the website. The following month lots of the submitted solutions to the previous month’s puzzles are published on the site. I have had a solution of one of my classes featured on the site quite a few times.

One of the puzzles that caught my eye this month was ‘Curvy Areas‘. Check out the graphic below:

Curvy Areas from NRich Maths

First you could have a class discussion about how the image was constructed. Next you could get the kids to try to reconstruct the image. Then, if they’re familiar with pi and calculating the area of circles you could get them to calculate what proportion (or just what area) of the diagram is red, orange, yellow, green and blue…

A lovely activity that can span the ability ranges.

# What does the cube look like?

I created this worksheet based on a problem on the excellent NRich Maths website.

The pupils have to use their skills of visualising 3D shapes to draw patterns on the faces of a cube net after deciphering where they should go by looking at 3D views of the cube. To scaffold the task an actual cube net is also included so they can build what they think is the right solution. There is a nice extension for the future engineers who have excellent visualisation skills.

I found this to work well with medium-to-high attaining year 7 and 8 classes.

# Making 100

Pupils write out the digits 1 to 10 like this:

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

The aim is to create an expression that equals 100 by putting as many + – X and / signs between the digits as they like. You might like to demo one like this:

1    2   3 + 4   5   6  X 7 / 8 – 9 = 123 + 456 X 7 / 8 – 9 = 513

Obviously this one is too high but it does illustrate the method. You can decide whether the pupils must use BODMAS or not (I’d suggest they do!) and whether they are allowed to put brackets in as well.

There are many solutions and you might like to post them in the comments section below when you find them!

Thanks to Cat for this engaging little starter. It might make a brilliant homework too!

Have fun!

# Sudoku Fridays

Start your Friday lessons with a Sudoku challenge for your students! Use it as a starter over a series of weeks and see their progression. Get them to discuss their logical thinking and to explain how they solve the problems. Can they write a set of rules you can use to solve all Sudoku puzzles?

Get free Sudoku puzzles online at http://www.websudoku.com/

Thanks to Vicky F for this idea!