Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Doing Math the Routty Way: Engaging Activities from A to Z (Day 15)

Puzzle Box- We all have those fast finishers who seem to finish all of their work well before we need them to be finished. If not managed carefully, these situations can become discipline problems. One of the strategies that I use to manage this issue is called the Puzzle Box. I use a file crate with labeled file folders to maintain the puzzles and place the crate in a central location in the classroom. 

When students are finished with their work, they choose a puzzle from the box to complete. Some of the puzzles are quick; others take much longer. I always try to have a variety of different puzzles available and replace them periodically. When students finish a puzzle, they submit it to me for review, and I give them a reward of some sort, like classroom cash. I've also included the puzzles on my math menus, so students will collect the puzzle along with their other artifacts until they have completed the menu board. 

My favorite puzzles come from the AIMS website. Click here to look through their problem solving and puzzle books. I use the Solve It! book series, Puzzle Play book, and Blockout! book to fill the box. (I'm not advertising for AIMS, but they are transitioning from print materials to digital copies and are offering all of their print books for a substantially discounted rate, 60% off in most cases. Be sure to check it out!)  You can also sign up for their free newsletter here. It includes links to free activity and puzzle downloads, usually sent out once a month. 

In addition to the puzzle box, the students have access to manipulatives and other tools that may be needed to complete the puzzles. For example, for the Blockout puzzles, I provide overhead color tiles so that the students can cover the squares with the tiles to test their solution before they color the squares with markers. Some of the puzzles also require the use of toothpicks, which I make available as well. 

View examples of the puzzles in action below: 

The activity above is from the Blockout! book. This activity challenges students to create the number at the top of the page using the numbers in the large square. All numbers must belong to an arrangement of adjacent, touching, small squares that equal the number. The large squares get bigger in order to continue challenging the students. 

The activity above is from the Solve It! 4th book. This activity challenges students to complete the boxes with a designated set of numbers that match the clues below each square.