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Puzzle it Out – Recreational Maths

Recreational maths

As it’s almost the holidays, I thought it might be timely to post some ideas for recreational maths.  This may sound a tad geeky, but when we enjoy maths ourselves as teachers, we are much more likely to communicate that enjoyment to the children we teach.  So the ideas I’ll be sharing are mainly aimed at adults, but some of them would be accessible to older primary children too.

First of all, a very recent find in the app store.  Logic Games has several different types of logic games, all with many different levels.  I’ve only tried 2 or 3 of these so far and only the early levels but there’s plenty there to challenge.  Unlike some apps, the early levels are already quite challenging (or perhaps it’s just me in need of a holiday).  My husband and I are both hooked and I anticipate some healthy competition over the holidays.   I suspect these ought not to be beyond brighter children at the older end of primary school but they would need to be prepared to be patient and think pretty hard.  A few years ago, I ran an after school maths club which focused on recreational maths, and one of the activities we did was Sudoku puzzles, starting with some fairly easy ones and getting progressively harder.  I was amazed when one of the girls, (I’ll call her Sarah) turned out to be easily the best at these.  Sarah had struggled with maths throughout school and had a very poor grasp of number bonds and tables and only a shaky idea of basic calculation methods, and yet she could think through a Sudoku puzzle and come up with a solution much more quickly than some of the most able children.  It transpired that she had been doing the puzzles with her grandfather every Saturday afternoon for some time.  It also occurred to me though, that Sarah was used to finding things difficult and having to really think about them to arrive at a solution, whereas for some of the much brighter children in school, that was quite a novel experience.  They were used to grasping things quickly and not having to think too hard.  So I think it’s well worth giving our more able mathematicians something that they’ll find quite challenging and have to spend some time on.  The ‘Logic Games’ app is free, or for £2.99 you can install a version without adverts – very good value for such a lot of games.

Next, a really good book.  I’ve enjoyed the books of Ian Stewart and Marcus du Sautoy, but one of my favourites recently has been by Alex Bellos‘Alex’s Adventures in Numberland’ explores our relationship with numbers and mathematics and is very readable.  Bellos is a journalist and communicates the ideas involved very effectively without patronising the reader.

Finally, a book aimed at children.  Johnny Ball’s ‘Think of a Number’ is a very entertaining book about maths.  I’ve used several of the ideas from this in the classroom, including one where he imagines a world without numbers and features pages from a newspaper without any numbers.  So one story is headlined ‘Woman has some babies’ and attempts to tell the story of a mother giving birth to sextuplets without actually using any numbers (eg. “it’s quite common for a woman to give birth to a baby and another, but this woman has given birth to a baby and another and another and another and another and another.”)

Why not try one of these over the holidays?

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