ATMNE Portland Conference
November, 2008

Puzzles: A Non-empty Intersection of Rich Mathematics and Skill Proficiency.

Bob Mead
Haverhill, NH 03765
email: claire.mead@duke.alumni.edu

Premises:

1. The acquisition and retention of mathematical skill does require practice.
2. Practice can be dull.
3. Puzzles provide challenge, repetition, and satisfaction upon solution.
4. There are many sources, both print and web, for math and logic puzzles.
5. Puzzles might be a more enjoyable way to learn and practice mathematics.

Claire Mead and I have created an online two-level Puzzle Mall for Math teachers. Solutions to the puzzles will be available in about one month's time. The entire Mall site is hosted by Uncle Bob's Puzzle Corner. Lists of print resources and outside links are available at the Puzzle Mall (Upper Level and Lower Level)

Contained in the handout:

Implementation summaries of the Lower and Upper levels.

A Nine-to-One worksheet
A 3x3 tiles worksheet

A rectangular grid for Quadrisections and TicTicTacTac Non Toe
A rectangular grid for 5 Degrees of Rationality
A sheet of isometric dot paper

Recommended readings

Suggestions:

1. The wise teacher will manage the use of the Puzzle Mall, deciding when and how to use each store. Teachers can help mediate the solving process – encouraging multiple strategies, good math language, estimations, visualizations and answer checking.
2. Guess and check strategies should be encouraged in the early grades as first approaches to many problems and puzzles, especially when among the educational objectives are mental calculation and repetitive practice.
3. Our children are bombarded daily by thousands of images, but they seem to have difficulty using the “mind’s eye” to create their own. Puzzles can provide practice in drawing and transforming diagrams, and in creating solving schemes and manipulatives.
4. Once the student has mastered the rudiments, technology can assume some of the repetitious work, so that students can look for patterns and more sophisticated solving strategies.

Now let’s all visit the Puzzle Mall, entering at the Lower Level.