In this lesson, I try and use a fairly common type of puzzle and incorporate it into a studying strategy. The goal is to have fun reviewing topics from the year.
I start off class by placing an envelope on each table with the following puzzle cut up in pieces:
I give the students five minutes to assemble the puzzle and then display the completed puzzle on the projector. The letters on each piece are help students recognize if they got the puzzle correct. As a class we discuss some of the tougher matches and I ask students to show how they matched some of the number pairs up.
The most fun in this lesson is to create the puzzle. So I give students some guidance and ask them to assemble their own puzzle. They can choose from one of several letter puzzle templates:
There are three other variations in the resource section. They can also choose to make their puzzles tougher by using a puzzle template with symbols:
I also leave some Blank Grids.
As a class, we discuss why the symbols are so much tougher. The idea is that each symbol has radial symmetry, so you can't tell if they are "up" or "down." However, the letters are easy to orient.
Next, we go over the guidelines for creating a puzzle:
1. Everyone needs to work together
2. Expression pairs need to use different operations
3. Many pieces should "almost" fit.
The third guideline is tough at first, but students need to remember that many puzzle pieces have some pairs that fit, but what makes a puzzle unique is that every side fits. So they can solve this by repeating a pair 2 or 3 times throughout the puzzle.
I print two copies of each template. This way students can create a puzzle and cut it up but still keep a copy of the answer key.
I swap groups and ask students to solve each others puzzles. But, no one can talk. I might let them speak in short intervals, but I want them to communicate through gestures and writing. I circulate and make sure they are working together. If I find that someone is dominating, I might impose a rule like, "you are only allowed to hold piece at a time."
Here each group presents their solution and compares it to the answer key. Sometimes we have the pleasant surprise of finding that a puzzle had a second possible solution. When there is a disagreement, we use the nature of the game to have a healthy and open discussion about the mathematics.
The goal here is to prepare them for an assessment. So I finish the lesson by giving them 2 minutes to review and take any expression pairs that they found difficult. They could write them down and make a study guide from these expression pairs. I want them to reflect and recognize which types of problems are throwing them off.