Save Sid! Math Practice 1

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Students will be able to analyze, plan a solution, and develop an understanding of what it means to persevere.

Big Idea

Students will participate in an engaging challenge and discover Math Practice Standard 1.

Warm Up

5 minutes

I begin this lesson by telling a funny, yet dramatic story. I start by telling students that they have a friend, a worm friend, Sid. 

This is the story I tell: 

Sid has been spending her summer boating up and down Canyon Ferry Lake. (I use this body of water because it is familiar to my students.) Sid's not too bright, after all, the brains of worms are pretty small.  She’s never learned how to swim and she never wears her life preserver!!!

The worst has happened! Her boat has capsized and she’s stuck! Fortunately, her life preserver is in the boat, but unfortunately she does not know how to reach it without falling off and drowning.

How can you and your group save Sid using only four paperclips.  You may not touch Sid, the boat, or the life preserver directly with your hands.



35 minutes

In groups of four, students will work together to save Sid, the worm from drowning.  Students should record a written plan in their math notebooks before they begin. 

To save Sid, students must get the life preserver (gummy life saver) out from under the boat (clear plastic cup) and place it around Sid's waist, her middle.

set up



  • Gummy Worm
  • Gummy life preserver
  • 1 Plastic Cup
  • 4 Paper Clips


Follow the rules.

* Sid, the boat, the life preserver can be touched only with the paper clips. NO HANDS!

*The life preserver must be around Sid’s middle.

* Sid can not be hurt during the rescue missions… this includes not eating her! J  So be careful to not hook Sid or poke her too hard.

* Develop a detailed written plan with your partner. Each person should write the plan in your math notebooks. You may use pictures, words, and numbers in your plan. 


If students forget and touch any of the object with their hands, I tell them they should begin again.

Students should be ready to share with the class, their strategies for this rescue mission.

This group of students talks about their plan and ensures each group member has a job. 


You can see in this video a student discussing his group's strategy for saving Sid.


This group works together to get the gummy life savor around the gummy worm. 






Student debrief - Wrap Up

15 minutes

I lead a class discussion to end this lesson. I elicit student comments about what was frustrating. Some students may have had to start over.  I have students share about their process and what it felt like to start over.  Some students may have had a difficult time beginning or knowing what to do.  I ask these students to share how they decided what to do.

Next, I ask students if they discussed several different ways to save Sid before they came up with their written plan in their notebook. Again, most students will raise their hand. I remind students that mathematicians make guesses about solutions and make plans before jumping right into to solve problems.

I ask students to think about if there was a time they wanted to give up in saving Sid.  I ask students that had to begin again if they changed their approach or strategy.  I encourage students by telling them that mathematicians feel challenged too and must persevere when solving problems. 

I ask students to repeat the word persevere and tell them that they persevered when saving Sid.  They kept trying to save Sid, even when it seemed hard and challenging.

Last, I direct students to write the word PERSEVERE in their math notebooks along with the definition that emerged from the class discussion.