Can I share with you something that I have been itching to scream from the rooftops?
Math doesn't have to be boring!!
There. I said it.
I have been thinking a lot lately about my personal view of mathematics as well as the view that my students bring in to tutoring sessions. Growing up, I always believed that I was not good at math because I couldn't remember all the rules. Many of my math students come to tutoring thinking that math is their weak subject. From what they are seeing in class with test-prep worksheets and then the tests and state tests..I kind of can't blame them. I am not in any way saying that their teachers are doing a poor job, I'm just saying our system pushes a lot of tests. When we are focusing on passing a test, any subject gets dull quickly.
As I have gained my teaching credentials and navigated through the private tutoring environment I have started to realize that I really love math. Math does not have to be boring, and true mathematics hardly ever is.
I keep coming back to the same question. How do we get students excited about math?
I am still on this quest, but I have found some pretty awesome ways to show kiddos how fun math can be. One of my favorite ways right now is math puzzles. I love math puzzles because they don't necessarily focus on a certain skill, so you don't get stuck trying to remember rules and formulas learned in math class. Instead, math puzzles encourage students to think about a problem from many angles, test it out and eventually come to an answer. Another thing I love about math puzzles is that many have more than one "correct" answer.
Try out some math puzzles with your child this summer. You can do them as a family or give them to your child to think about on their own. You might find that you enjoy them as well! Last night, my husband and I worked through the "jar problem" below and it was lots of fun.
Suppose you have a 3 liter jug and a 5 liter jug. The jugs have no measurement lines on them either. How could you measure exactly 4 liters using only those jugs and as much extra water as you need?
We had to chew on it individually for a while, but it resulted in some fun mathematical conversation!
Below are some sites where you can find math puzzles to keep you and your children busy this summer:
Pentominos on Scholastic
Pentominos is kind of like tetris. You are provided different shaped pieces that are made of five squares. You must fill in a square completely with the pieces. This game helps build logic skills as well as spacial awareness and mental planning.
Brain Benders on Cool Math 4 Kids
I love this long list of brain benders! The riddles in the list range from logic puzzles to geometry puzzles and will definitely get your kiddo thinking. The number bubbles are super tricky!
Tangrams on ABCYa
Tangrams are great for younger grades but are also very fun for older grades as well. The interactive tangrams puzzles on ABCYa are great for geometry skills. The player must rotate and move shapes in order to fill in a dotted pattern to solve a puzzle. The easy level would be perfect for K-1st graders and medium and above would be great for older students.
This is a fun twist on traditional Sodoku that is perfect for students. Instead of filling in numbers by hand, all the possible numbers are scattered on the side as tiles. Each number is assigned a color as well to help keep track of whether a number is in each square or row more than once. I love this very visual play on sodoku, it would be a perfect way to introduce your child to the popular number puzzles.
There are many other math puzzles and games out there to help your child increase their mathematical thinking, this is just a sampling!
If you want to read more about how math doesn't have to be boring and how some schools are getting students SUPER pumped up about math give What's Math Got to Do with It? by Jo Boaler a read. This book helped shape my view of how to approach math with students, and it is a great resource for teachers, parents or tutors.
Hope you have lots of fun with your kiddos working through math puzzles! Tell me all about your experiences with the puzzles in the comments.