Today was the first day of the new semester. I issued my students the 2022 Challenge to get their brains re-engaged in doing math without having to jump straight into content on day one.

What is the 2022 Challenge?

The goal of the challenge is to use the digits in 2022 (2, 0, 2, and 2) exactly one time each along with any mathematical symbol or operation of your choosing to create expressions equivalent to the numbers between 1 and 100.

I first learned of this type of yearly number challenge in 2016. I first started by creating large posters that could be hung on a bulletin board with the challenge on them for students to fill in. You can check out my bulletin boards for the 2016 Challenge, 2017 Challenge, and 2018 Challenge. In 2019, I changed things up and did a group competition for the 2019 Challenge.

In 2020, I decided that only having two two’s and two zero’s was a bit too restrictive, so I didn’t end up doing the 2020 Challenge with students. We started off the 2021 school year with students learning remotely, so the 2021 Challenge didn’t happen either.

This year, I wasn’t sure exactly how much of the 2022 Challenge that my students would be able to complete, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. I also decided to change things up this year and do the yearly number challenge as a worksheet.

I actually kicked off class with an ACT question featuring factorials. The majority of my students have never encountered factorials before, and I knew that we would have much more success with the challenge if we were able to capitalize on the fact that 0! = 1.

We worked through the ACT problem, I taught them the word “factorial,” and then I challenged them to use their new understanding of factorials to determine the value of 0!. After revealing that 0! is 1, I told them that this fact might come in handy today and handed out the 2022 Challenge worksheet.

At this point, we discussed the directions. I intentionally left the directions vague since I find that it’s best for students to get started on the challenge and then let them start asking questions. This is when I tell them that concatenation (for example joining 2 and 0 to form 20) is allowed. I also give them ideas of different mathematical symbols they can use like parentheses, decimal points, factorial, and exponents. The caveat with exponents is that the exponent has counts as one of the digits. Some students also get it in their heads that they need to keep the digits 2, 0, 2, and 2 in that order.

NCTM calls this the “Year Game” and encourages students to keep the digits in the original order whenever possible. I thought that this year’s challenge was hard enough without encouraging this restriction.

To give my students a bit of extra motivation to engage with the activity on the first day back from break, I decided to pit my classes against one another in a contest. I told them whichever class period found the most solutions to the challenge would win cookies.

Apparently, teenagers love food because I found that my students were engaged and quite competitive. My afternoon class even went as far as to compile all of their results on the dry erase board to make sure that students weren’t working on numbers that had already been solved by another group.

They also argued that their class was at a disadvantage since they had half as many students as some of my other classes. They wanted me to change the rules to make it ratio based, instead.

How many of the solutions ended up being actually possible to find? My students managed to find solutions to 45 different numbers between 1 and 100.

The numbers 1-10 are all possible. So, if you wanted to use this activity as a class warm-up you could challenge students to find expressions for the first ten numbers.

The solutions get quite scarce after 50. So, you might also want to edit the challenge to find only the numbers 1 through 50.

I know that you can use the floor and ceiling functions to find many more solutions, but this approach has always felt a little like “cheating” to me. So, I’ve never told my students about the floor and ceiling functions as an option.

I’m looking forward to hearing how many solutions your students find!

2022 Challenge Worksheet (PDF) (1191 downloads)

2022 Challenge Worksheet (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (256 downloads)

It’s the first Monday of the new semester for me, and I have to be honest that I wasn’t thrilled to set my alarm last night for a day full of professional development meetings today. I know that I’ll get my teaching energy and enthusiasm back tomorrow, though, when I find myself in a room full of teenagers again.

To help get in back-to-school mode, here’s a new volume of Monday Must Reads. This is my weekly-ish attempt at capturing the creative ideas shared by other (mostly) math teaches on twitter. I hope you find at least one or two ideas that you can adapt for your own classroom.

Vocabulary is definitely an area of teaching where I could improve. I really like this idea from Austin Coleman of posting weekly vocabulary that you want to focus on.

Tricia Krumbach inspires with an idea I’m filing away for next Christmas – Desmos Gingerbread Houses!

Scottie O’Neill suggests having students create their own mathematical memes using a template. I love this idea!

Katie Marhefki suggests using the Two Truths and a Lie practice structure with polynomial theorems. Brilliant!

Check out these examples from Kristen Fouss about how to use Mentimeter in the classroom.

I realize this is an old tweet, but I only ran across it recently. I love this twist on Panda Squares from David Butler – a Panda Squares Parade.

Justin Aion shares a clever brainteaser.

Leah TenEyck highlights a brilliant way to display puzzles to capture student interest.

Check out this fun probability lesson from Kim Jackson!

Until next week, keep sharing your great ideas! You may just find yourself in a future volume of Monday Must Reads!

]]>One of my favorite ever projects was these Borax Snowflake Christmas Ornaments that I made a few years ago with my chemistry students with coffee filters.

The ornaments are super glittery and sparkly in person. The pictures I took of my students’ finished ornaments really didn’t do them justice.

It may be too late to do this project with your students this year, but you could still make them with your own children at home if you wanted to.

- Coffee Filters
- Scissors for Cutting Snowflakes Out of Coffee Filters
- Borax
- Water
- Container to Hold Water/Borax Solution
- Ribbon or Yarn for Hanging
- Styrofoam Plate Slightly Larger than Coffee Filter

I followed this Handmade Crystal Snowflake Ornaments tutorial.

I passed out coffee filters to each my students and showed them how to flatten the coffee filter so it can be folded and cut to form a snowflake.

Somehow, I managed to take absolutely zero pictures of this step in the process.

Once the snowflakes are made, it’s time to make a supersaturated borax/water solution to dip our coffee filters in.

Some of my students learned the hard way that it is super important to follow instructions.

The instructions say to add just enough borax so that it stops dissolving.

Some of my students must have thought that more was better… These students found that their snowflake ornaments easily crumbled and fell apart. More is definitely NOT better.

We put our coffee filter snowflakes in a Styrofoam plate and poured our borax and water solution over the snowflake.

Students wrote their names on the edges of the plates to make it easier to tell our snowflakes apart later.

We left our plates with our snowflakes soaking in the solution overnight to let the crystals form on our coffee filters.

The next school day, we poured off the excess borax solution. I didn’t have a sink in my chemistry classroom (it was not meant to be a science classroom whatsoever!), so we used a plastic tub to let everyone empty their plates into.

Then, we carefully shifted our snowflake ornaments to a new plate to live on while they dried.

My Algebra 1 students were soooo jealous that my Chemistry students got to do a lab and they didn’t.

Check out those sparkly crystals!

Once the ornaments were dry, it was time to actually make them into ornaments. I didn’t have any red ribbon, so I improvised with red yarn for students to tie on their ornaments.

These ornaments are quite fragile, so I recommended students transfer them home on the paper plate in order to try and keep the ornament from getting broken.

Overall, my students LOVED this project!

I created this free Greek alphabet letters printable to use as a reference with my math students. It features the names of all twenty-four letters of the Greek alphabet as well as upper case and lower case versions of each letter.

I used to have Greek Alphabet Posters hanging in my classroom, but I have not hung them up in the last few years because I got tired of having to cover them up multiple times a year when my room gets used for standardized testing.

The Greek alphabet shows up in both my Pre-Calculus classes and my Statistics classes, so I’m super excited about having this as a printable resource to use with my students.

Now that I’m doing binders with my students instead of interactive notebooks, I can just print the chart of Greek alphabet letters and give it to my students to stick in their binders as a reference.

Greek Alphabet Letters Printable (PDF) (43 downloads)

Greek Alphabet Letters Printable (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (18 downloads)

Don’t forget to also check out my free printable Greek Alphabet Posters!

I created this mean, median, mode, and range challenge back when I was teaching Algebra 1. The activity is an adaptation of a set of questions created by the late Don Steward.

Students are placed in small groups which must work through as many of the different challenges as possible.

Each time a group successfully completes one of the challenges, I mark the challenge complete on their challenge tracking card by punching a whole in their half-sheet of paper.

I have also used stamps in the past to mark off which challenges students have completed.

When I do activities like this, I always create a tracking sheet for my students. I do this for several reasons. Most importantly, it tells students which challenges they have and haven’t completed.

Often, my students work the challenges out of order. If they don’t keep track of which ones they have and haven’t done, they end up wasting a lot of time looking for a challenge they haven’t completed.

It also gives me something to have students turn in for credit. I usually set a base number of challenges that I expect students to complete during the class period to receive full credit for the activity.

My students really enjoyed using our dry erase boards and markers to help them work through these different mean, median, mode, and range challenges.

They would write down a set of numbers that they thought met the requirements of the challenge. Then, they would calculate the mean, median, mode, and range of the set they created to check their work.

Usually, this would allow them to spot their mistakes before they came up to my desk to ask me to check their work on a specific challenge.

I loved this activity because it gave my students sooooo much practice finding mean, median, mode, and range. Some groups had to try three or four different data sets before they found the correct combination of numbers.

We did this activity after completing the mean, median, mode, and range graphic organizers that I created for our interactive notebooks.

Mean, Median, Mode, & Range Challenge (PDF) (59 downloads)

Mean, Median, Mode, & Range Challenge (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (21 downloads)

I created this How the Periodic Table Really Looks Activity a few years ago when I was teaching chemistry.

I wanted my chemistry students to understand that our modern day periodic table is structured the way it is because we want it to print nicely and be easily readable.

To help illustrate what the periodic table really looks like, I gave my chemistry students a periodic table for us to dissect and reassemble in our interactive notebooks.

I hope that the act of cutting apart the periodic table and re-gluing it helped the lesson stick in my students’ minds!

How the Periodic Table Really Looks (PDF) (27 downloads)

How the Periodic Table Really Looks (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (16 downloads)

I love introducing my students to new puzzles over the course of the school year. I often pull out strimko puzzles (a logic puzzle that is often compared to sudoku puzzles) on days when I am missing a large portion of my students due to activities or events.

In a strimko puzzle, you must place the numbers in the puzzle so that no number is repeated in any row, column, or stream. A stream is a set of circles which are connected by the lines in the puzzle.

If you are not familiar with Strimko Puzzles, I wrote a review here on my blog of one of the Strimko puzzle books back in 2017.

The problem with being puzzle-obsessed is that I am constantly finding new puzzles that I want to share with my students. It really is a case of too many puzzles and not enough time.

This year, I’m trying something new. I’ve decided to post some of my favorite paper and pencil logic puzzles for students to grab and work on whenever they wish.

This will hopefully let me expose my students to way more different types of puzzles that I would normally have time to.

My new favorite magnetic pockets from Charles Leonard made it super easy to put a set of puzzles for students to grab and take on my dry erase board.

You will notice that I am also using one of the pockets to hold a set of plastic pentomino pieces for the Star Pentominoes Puzzle.

They must be a bit eye-catching because when I administered the ACT in my classroom recently, several of the students in the room took a set of Strimko puzzles with them when they left.

These were students that I do not teach, so I was happy to be able to share a bit of puzzling fun with them!

These would also work great on the side of a filing cabinet if you don’t have enough dry erase space. I realize I am super lucky to have dry erase boards on 3 of the 4 walls in my classroom!

The Grabarchuk Family, the lovely creators of Strimko Puzzles, have a free downloadable set of 24 easy level 4 x 4 strimko puzzles on their website. I printed these off in booklet form.

Note: I did choose to NOT print the pages that included the answers to the puzzles!

I folded the booklets in half and stapled right along the edges to “bind” the puzzle book.

I really appreciate the fact that the magnetic pockets are see-through on the front so students can see exactly what they are grabbing out of the pocket.

These puzzle booklets are super ideal for students to grab and take home or to other classes because they not only include 24 strimko puzzles to solve, but they also walk students through how to solve the puzzles!

The booklet includes the three basic rules for strimko puzzles as well as a step-by-step example of how to solve a strimko puzzle.

Once students understand how the puzzles work, they can move on to the fun part: solving puzzles!

In order to capture student interest in trying these new logic puzzles, I decided to create a poster to hang next to my magnetic pocket full of puzzles.

I designed an 11 x 17 poster (printed on 11 x 17 cardstock) that features a blown-up image of the puzzle’s logo and the three main rules that must be followed when solving a Strimko Puzzle.

Rule 1: Each row must contain different numbers.

Rule 2: Each column must contain different numbers.

Rule 3: Each stream must contain different numbers.

This third rule is the one that students struggle the most with!

I really like the way that the rules are illustrated with a gray outline showing what is meant by each row, column, and stream. I took this image of the rules right out of the free downloadable puzzle set on the Strimko website!

Strimko Instructions 11 x 17 (PDF) (72 downloads)

This Rotated Square Puzzle challenges you to place the numbers 1 through 9 in the boxes of the rotated square so that the numbers in each horizontal row form a number which is a horizontal square.

This puzzle is the creation of L.P. Mochalov, and I found it in his book of *Totally Tough Brainteasers. * This is the same author who created the Star Pentominoes Puzzle and the Three Squared Puzzle that many of you have been using with your students recently.

The trickiest part of this puzzle is being familiar with your three digit perfect squares!

My More Perfect Squares Poster might help out with this.

I also created a larger version of this puzzle. I planned to put magnets on it and put it on my dry erase board, but I ran out of magnets!

Instead, I’ve been using these magnetic dry erase pockets from Charles Leonard to share puzzles with my students that aren’t magnetic.

Students really enjoy just being able to grab a puzzle off the board and take it to their desk to solve.

Rotated Square Puzzle (PDF) (37 downloads)

Rotated Square Puzzle (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (4 downloads)

This reindeer logic puzzle is perfect for bringing a bit of Christmas cheer into your classroom. Students are given seven statements about Santa’s reindeer who have run a race. They must use logical reasoning to determine the order in which the reindeer finished the race.

This logic puzzle is a testament to how much I love twitter and the difference it has made in my classroom. In 2016, I came across this Christmas-themed logic puzzle from Learning Maths on twitter.

Here’s the text of the puzzle:

Santaâ€™s reindeer had a race to see who would lead the sleigh this year. Medals were given to the top three reindeer. In what order did they finish?

**Blitzen**finished two ahead of**Cupid**and three ahead of**Vixen**.**Rudolph**finished just ahead of**Blitzen**and just behind**Dancer**.- Only one reindeer was slower than
**Cupid**. **Comet**was pleased to have beaten**Rudolph**, but he wished that heâ€™d also beaten**Dasher**.**Prancer**,**Comet**, and**Dasher**all won medals.**Donner**was unhappy to be in the bottom half of the results.**Prancer**was delighted to beat**Dasher**.

The first time I used this reindeer puzzle with my students, I projected the text on my SMARTBoard and let students work through the puzzle using dry erase boards.

I found that my students did not know the names of all of the reindeer from memory which made the puzzle extra difficult for them to solve. I soon got tired for repeating the names of the reindeer over and over again, so I decided there had to be a better way.

I ended up typing up the clues on a sheet of paper and made laminated cards with each reindeer’s name printed on them.

With this structure in place, it took my students about 5 minutes to work through this puzzle. This is the perfect length for a lesson starter during the Christmas season!

I recently decided to give this activity a bit of a face lift since it has been one of my favorite Christmas puzzles for several years now. Be sure to check out my other Christmas puzzles!

I actually ended up making three slightly different styles of this reindeer logic puzzle for you to choose from.

The first version of the Reindeer Logic puzzle has the seven clues written out as simple bullet points.

I also created a similar version of the puzzle with the clues printed in a table instead of a bulleted list.

Finally, I made a worksheet version in case teachers that teachers can use in conjunction with the laminated cards or without them.

I also created several different sizes/styles of reindeer name cards that you can print and use with your students.

My favorite version has reindeer clipart on each card with the reindeer’s name. This set of reindeer cards prints 1 set/page.

If you want to save paper, this next set of reindeer names prints 2 sets/page.

The third option is probably what you want if you are making a class set of these puzzles. The reindeer name cards are much smaller, but you can print four sets per page.

Be sure to share photos of your students working on this reindeer logic puzzle or any of my other Christmas puzzles with me on twitter!

I love seeing students around the world enjoying the puzzles I share here on my blog!

Reindeer Logic Puzzle (PDF) (394 downloads)

Reindeer Logic Puzzle (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (133 downloads)

Happy Monday! It’s the first day of Thanksgiving Break for me, so it’s an extra happy Monday. So far today, I’ve used my extra time off to work on cleaning out our garage, hang up some Christmas decorations, get my booster shot, and write this blog post. I know I live an exciting life.

If you’re new around here, welcome! Monday Must Reads is my weekly-ish attempt at capturing the brilliant ideas shared by other (mostly) math teachers on twitter. I enjoy highlighting these ideas that I want to hopefully someday use in my own classroom. Hopefully you can find an idea or two worth trying yourself!

Andre Sasser shares an epic Desmos door decoration for Christmas.

Check out this awesome triangle artwork created by the students of Dan Anderson.

How awesome are these 3D printed keychains created by two of Ella Hereth‘s students?!?

Julia Anker inspires with a fun looking draw the polynomial on your back by asking questions activity. So creative!

This pumpkin chunking activity from Brandi Green to practice quadratics looks fun!

Doug shares how to make a great data display using post-its.

Graeme Lachance shares a new open middle problem he created.

This coordinate plane bingo idea from Miss C looks super engaging!

Love these snowflakes constructed by the students of Stephen Caviness using a compass and straight edge!

Check out this lovely visual from txirimiri of different ways to show the fraction 4/4. Beautiful! This would make a lovely task to give students.

Until next time, keep sharing your awesome ideas! Want even more ideas? I suggest checking out previous volumes of Monday Must Reads!

]]>I decided to create a special place on my blog to share my make your own question stack template. Previously, I have shared this template inside certain question stack posts, but it has never been particularly easy to find.

Question Stacks are one of my favorite practice structures to use with students because they can be used for basically any topic, and they are self-checking!

Students know exactly when they need to ask for help. I love that question stacks allow groups of students to work at their own pace. Some will make it through all ten questions. Others may only make it through four.

As long as students are working and asking good questions, I am happy! I also like that students don’t just get to skip questions when they feel like it. This activity is all about perseverance.

Also, once students know how the structure works, all I have to do is pass out the cards. The students know exactly what to do to get started.

Students lay out all of the question stack cards individually with the answer sides facing up. These cards form the “answer bank.”

Students choose one card to flip over. I have them lay this card on top of their laminated question stack template so they don’t get confused. I created this laminated set of question stack instructions to use with my own students to walk them through the process of solving a question stack activity.

Students work out the problem on the card they have just flipped over. When they have decided on an answer, they check the “answer bank” to see if their answer is there.

If their answer is in the answer bank, they are (most likely) correct. If it isn’t, they know that they have made a mistake. They need to check their work and/or ask for help.

If the answer is in the answer bank, this card is flipped over to reveal a new question. This process repeats until the last question is flipped over. The answer to this card should be at the bottom of the pile if all of the questions have been answered correctly.

As students progress through the activity, the answer bank shrinks with each question solved. I find that my students’ confidence grows as the answer bank shrinks.

The question that ends up on the very top of the question stack will match the answer at the very bottom of the question stack.

Over the years, I have shared a number of different question stacks I have created for various topics here on this blog. You can find a list of them at the bottom of this post.

But what about the topics I haven’t created question stacks for? What about that topic that you need a fun way to practice TOMORROW? Yes, I’ve been there!

Question stacks are super simple to put together. All you need is ten different questions with ten unique answers.

The unique answers is the important part. If any of your answers repeat, your question stack will not form a perfect loop.

If you do accidentally include a duplicate answer, you can remedy this on the fly by removing one of the cards from the deck. It means your students won’t get quite as much practice, but it will mean much less frustration for you!

Let me speak from experience. Print off your question stack and test it out yourself before you give it to students. You will thank me!

Once you have your ten questions with ten unique answers, it’s just a matter of typing or copying and pasting the questions into the question stack template.

Here’s a diagram to show you where to place each question and answer. If you follow this template, your question stack will work every single time!

When I first started creating question stacks, I would type them in Microsoft Publisher. Then, I would print, laminate, and cut the cards apart to make individual question stack decks.

After doing this for several years, I stumbled upon printable Avery business cards.

These are a lifesaver for making activity prep super fast. The cards snap apart so quickly. It never fails to amaze and excite me how the paper I just ran through my printer can come apart so easily.

Not only do the business cards save me the time I normally spend cutting the cards apart, they also save me lamination time. The business cards might not be quite as durable as laminated paper, but I have had no trouble with them at all.

The ZIP file below contains three different make your own question stack templates for Microsoft Publisher and Word. There are templates for printing both on regular paper and on perforated business cards.

Question Stack Templates – Word and Publisher (ZIP) (16 downloads)Back in September, I ran across this tweet from Penny Dell Puzzles. Change one letter in each word so that all five words have something in common: BLANK, BLOWN, GREET, MELLOW, and WRITE. Add another to the list that follows the pattern.

I was amused by this puzzle, so I decided to put it up on my dry erase board to see what my students would do with the puzzle.

Most students ignored it, but a few were intrigued and ended up adding a few words of their own to the list.

I thought I should give this puzzle its own blog post so I can find it again in the future!

Want more puzzles? Check out my puzzles page!

]]>I’ve been having a lot of fun recently posting these Make 30 Puzzles for my students to tackle on a daily basis. The goal of these Make 30 puzzles is to arrange the digits and any of the arithmetic operations to form an expression that evaluates to 30.

For example, the digits 0, 2, and 6 can be arranged to form 60 / 2 = 30.

These Make 30 Puzzles are the creation of retired math professor and brilliant puzzle creator Erich Friedman. Last school year, I featured his Plus Times Puzzle here on my blog.

This summer, I was super excited to check my email and see an email from Erich. He had saw my blog post about his plus times puzzles and decided to create a special set of puzzles especially for my classroom and my students to enjoy. That’s where these Make 30 Puzzles came from!

How cool is this?!? A puzzle-writing celebrity made a special set of puzzles just for my classroom! Of course, I couldn’t keep them just to myself. I want your students to get in on the fun as well!

Here’s what the Make 30 Puzzles look like on Erich Friedman’s website.

I decided to create magnets that I could put up for each day. I typed the numbers 0-9 and made enough duplicate copies of the numbers to let me put up each of the different puzzles.

There are 186 different puzzles, so you could easily post a different puzzle each and every day of the school year.

I’ve decided to post my daily Make 30 puzzle under the day’s date. I just switch out the Make 30 magnets whenever I switch out my daily date magnets.

Of course, you could take the easy way out and skip the magnets altogether. Just write the day’s numbers using a dry erase marker. But, I do think the magnets make the puzzle a bit more eye-popping.

The magnets also allow students to manipulate the numbers and do something like this. I had a sub the other day, and I returned to find that a mystery student had solved the puzzle.

I actually typed up and printed two different sizes of numbers. The larger set of numbers has all of the digits needed to do the first 38 puzzles. I would print and use this set if you plan to just do these puzzles for a short amount of time or if you are working with younger students.

The puzzles definitely increase in difficulty as the puzzle numbers increase.

The smaller set of numbers has all of the digits needed to do all of the puzzles. They are sized smaller to save paper.

I’m not sure how long I want to keep this puzzle out, so I currently only added magnets to the set of larger magnets.

I’m currently storing the unused puzzle magnets in a plastic pouch along with a printed copy of the puzzles. Each day, I switch out the puzzle and highlight it so I can keep track of which ones I have given my students!

Make 30 Puzzle (PDF) (36 downloads)

Make 30 Puzzle (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (11 downloads)

Want more puzzles? Check out my puzzles page!

]]>In this which side of the line letters puzzle, the challenge is to determine on which side of the line does the letter “r” go.

I ran across this puzzle in *The Big Book of Mind-Bending Puzzles* by Terry Stickels and decided it would make a great puzzle to put up in my classroom. A few weeks ago, I did a very similar puzzle involving numbers that was a big hit with my students.

I typed up squares with each letter on it which I then laminated and placed magnets on the back of.

My idea with the magnets is that I like the idea of possibly having students design their own versions of this puzzle in the future to share with the class! I have not done that yet, though.

Trust me, you do not have to go to all of this work in order to use this puzzle with your students!

You could totally just write the letters above/below the line.

Or even easier, just project this image on your screen!

I also created a smaller version of the puzzle that prints three copies of the puzzle to a page.

Which Side of the Line Letters Puzzle (PDF) (65 downloads)

Which Side of the Line Letters Puzzle (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (22 downloads)

Want even more free printable puzzles? Check out my puzzles page!

]]>This Zigzag Overlap Puzzle was a fun addition to my puzzle of the week collection! The challenge is to arrange the eight strips into the five-by-five grid so that you will see the continuous black band running diagonally across the board as shown.

I found this zigzag overlap puzzle in Ivan Moscovich’s *The Big Book of Brain Games*. This book weighs several pounds and is chock-full of SO many puzzles that can be used with students! Used copies are available from Amazon for relatively cheap. I highly recommend any puzzles from Ivan Moscovich!

Since I no longer have room in my classroom for a flat puzzle table, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make this puzzle work. Then, I remembered I bought a set of magnetic pockets this summer. These magnetic pockets made it easy to put the puzzle up on the board, but students are still able to easily pull it down and work on it at their desks.

I printed an extra blank square for students to put their strips on top of while solving the puzzle. I was afraid that them put the strips on top of the original image that they would get confused and lose sight of what the goal of the puzzle was.

I really enjoyed working through this puzzle on my own before putting it out for students to work on.

I believe that there are numerous different ways to solve the puzzle, but don’t quote me on that!

Happy Puzzling!

Zig Zag Overlap Puzzle (PDF) (59 downloads)

Zig Zag Overlap Puzzle (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (7 downloads)

Want more puzzles? Check out my puzzles page for more free printable puzzles!

]]>Welcome to a new volume of Monday Must Reads, my weekly-ish attempt at capturing the amazing ideas shared by (mostly) math teachers on twitter. I can’t believe that I have almost compiled 100 of these round-ups! I hope you find an idea or two to use in your own classroom or to share with a coworker.

I’m always on the lookout for fun ways to structure practice in math class. Check out this slapjack review game from Tara Maynard!

Mrs. Brown highlights a lovely transformations activity from the Virginia Department of Education.

Paula Beardell Krieg shares some lovely stacking origami. I’m adding this to my very long list of origami projects to explore!

I am mesmerized by this printable dice net from David Butler. No glue needed!

Doing lots of STEM building projects? Check out this teacher hack from Chuck Stoffle!

Diane Dreef combines coding with WODB (Which One Doesn’t Belong). What a lovely combination!

The creative Kerri Homan shares a way to use the game Charty Party in calculus class. Looks fun!

I love this Convince Your Arch Rival idea from Nat Banting! So many possibilities…

I realize that Halloween is now over, but this idea from Chris Luzniak is just too good not to share!

Suzanne von Oy shares her Desmos self-portrait. LOVE IT!

Until next time, keep sharing your awesome ideas! Want even more ideas? I suggest checking out previous volumes of Monday Must Reads!

]]>This tricky triangles puzzle has been around for over a century – can you arrange these eight sticks to form exactly four triangles and two squares?

The original puzzle was meant to be solved with matchsticks, but I don’t think I need to explain why I won’t be giving my students matchsticks to play with… Instead, I cut up some strips of cardstock for students to use.

I placed the cardstock “sticks” in one of my magnetic pockets I bought this summer for my classroom. They are coming in so handy for putting up puzzles in my classroom as well as organizing activities that have multiple levels/stages.

I originally ran across this puzzle in *The 2nd Mammoth Book of Fun & Games* by Richard B Manchester. But, a bit of googling revealed this is an old puzzle since the same puzzle can be found in a 1917 issue of Boys Life Magazine.

When I put up this tricky triangles puzzle a few weeks ago, I did discover one down-side to using strips of cardstock instead of the originally intended matchsticks. One of my students found an unintended solution. I told him it wasn’t the intended solution, but I gave him definite points for creativity!

Tricky Triangles Puzzle (PDF) (40 downloads)

Tricky Triangles Puzzle (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (19 downloads)

Looking for more free puzzles? Check out my puzzles page!

]]>This star pentominoes puzzle is a fun twist on the standard rectangular pentominoes puzzle.

I had my first experience with pentominoes puzzles in second grade. My teacher, Mrs. Green, loved pentominoes. One of the activities we worked on frequently in our free time was the standard rectangular pentominoes puzzle. Mrs. Green had a binder full of solutions and anytime you solved the rectangular pentominoes puzzle, she would pull out her binder to see if we had discovered a new solution that she could add to her binder. If we did, it was a great honor, and we would get a piece of candy to celebrate.

This Star Pentominoes Puzzle adds a fun twist to the regular pentominoes challenge of building a 5 x 12 rectangle using pentominoes. In this puzzle, each pentomino must cover exactly one star in the rectangle.

I found this star pentominoes puzzle in *Totally Tough Brainteasers* by L.P. Mochalov. I’m really enjoying the puzzles by this puzzle author, and I have several more puzzles by Mochalov that I will be sharing soon that I have adapted for my classroom. Recently, I shared the Three Squared Puzzle by the same author!

I printed the puzzle on 11 x 17 cardstock. I sized everything to fit pentominoes made of one-inch squares since that is the size of the plastic pentominoes I have in my classroom. If you don’t have a set of plastic pentominoes, I highly recommend adding them to your wishlist! You can buy them in a bucket on Amazon that contains six sets of pentominoes.

You could also 3D print a set of pentominoes if you have access to a 3D printer, but I have never tried that myself.

The stars add a fun twist to the puzzle. I really enjoyed trying to figure out what piece I could use in the bottom left hand corner of the puzzle that would only cover one star.

I’ve had this puzzle out for several weeks in my classroom, and several students have managed to solve it. One thing that I have really enjoyed about this puzzle is that students tend to work on it in pairs which leads to some awesome conversations to listen in on!

If you don’t have access to a set of plastic pentominoes, I have also created a set of printable pentominoes that are made of one-inch squares. They aren’t quite as satisfying to play with, but they will work just fine.

Just make sure you print the puzzle board on 11 x 17 paper and the pentominoes pieces on letter-sized paper.

Star Pentominoes Puzzle – 11 x 17 (PDF and Editable Publisher File ZIP) (28 downloads)

One Inch Pentominoes (PDF) (13 downloads)

One Inch Pentominoes (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (5 downloads)

Want even more puzzles? Are you obsessed as I am? Check out my puzzles page!

]]>It’s November which means it’s finally time to pull out this Triangular Turkey puzzle for Thanksgiving. How many different triangles can you find in this picture of a Thanksgiving turkey?

I ran across this triangular turkey puzzle in a Martin Gardner book (*Perplexing Puzzles and Tantalizing Teasers*) this summer, and I knew I had to add it to my list of activities for November.

I’m looking forward to some interesting conversation and debates with my students over this puzzle! This isn’t a super complex puzzle, so it would be suitable as a great class opener.

Triangular Turkey (PDF) (167 downloads)

Triangular Turkey (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (36 downloads)

Want more puzzles? Check out my puzzles page!

]]>After creating our own individual magnets, my statistics class used them to complete this dot plot of the day activity. For an entire week, we created a dot plot at the beginning of each class period. Then students practiced writing a short paragraph to describe the data’s distribution.

I only see my students four days a week since we have asynchronous distance learning days each Monday. So, the dot plot of the day template I used with my students only had space for four prompts. I also created a five day template in case you have a more normal school week.

Here are some examples of the prompts I used with my students. We had a lot of fun with this activity in statistics, and I

This is a nice prompt if you are looking to create a skewed data set! Of course, you would need to insert your own school district’s name…

I use European shoe size because it is the same for men and women. We always have a discussion about how if we used American shoe sizes that we would have to create separate dot plots for each gender.

Check out this outlier! We had to make the student list off all the concerts he had attended!

Dot Plot of the Day (PDF) (5 downloads)

Dot Plot of the Day (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (1 download)