Menseki Meiro puzzle books crossed my Twitter feed a few months ago and I took the plunge.
Image Credit: Amazon.co.uk
The problem is I couldn’t find an English language version. The Japanese originals were expensive so I bought the Spanish version. I don’t speak Spanish so asked my Spanish first language student who said it wasn’t Spanish – she suspected it was in Catalan!
But back to the Menseki puzzles …
They are ingenious puzzles where you simply use your knowledge of the area of a rectangle to solve the problem. Click on the image to see the cover problem. Puzzle 1 was so straightforward a nine year old could do it, puzzle 99 had Y13 Further Mathematicians befuddled. They make perfect starter or plenary activities for any age or ability.
Solutions are provided and if your copy is in a different language, like mine, you might just expand your mathematical vocabulary.
Whilst looking for a suitable image I also came across Alex Bellos discussing them on The Guardian website. Worth a look!
(By the way – the Menseki book also makes a good birthday present for that special geeky someone)
Unfortunately, due to work (i.e. being a full time teacher) I haven’t had time to upload my recent ideas or resources, however the usual service should resume after Christmas. Speaking of which – don’t forget to check out the Christmaths resources on the site:
I’ve used word length analysis for years as a source of comparative statistics. The concept is easy – you take a children’s book and a grown up book and compare the word lengths of the first 20, 40, 80 words. After you collect the information in a table, you can use this data to compare averages and the range.
Image credit: www.comingsoon.net
But what texts to use? Well – you can’t beat a bit of Dr Seuss, but what grown up text could you use. I can highly recommend this extract from ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’:
Not only will you be investigating mathematical concepts, but you might just be inspiring a student to pick up a book and read.
Update: If you use the first chapter (say thirty words) of ‘Pride & Prejudice & Zombies’ you get some interesting data. The range is wide, but the highest frequency word length is just two. It’s a great conversation piece – why does this happen? The language is a very precise parody of 19th prose with all the correct connectives and no contractions eg ‘it is’ not ‘it’s’.
I finally did it – I ran a session at Mathsconf8, in Kettering! The theme was ‘Why don’t you…?’, inspired by the 1980s UK kids show:
The idea was why don’t you put down the textbook, step away from the worksheet and get your students involved in doing Maths rather than have it done to them. I have to thank the participants for being up for a laugh and getting fully involved. Because it was a hands on session, all the notes needed for the activities are downloadable in a booklet.
Here in the UK there are major curriculum changes going on. There is new content in the curriculum – unless you are a certain age, in which case it’s old stuff coming back. All the current class textbooks will be missing chunks of the syllabi and who can afford to buy class sets of new ones. Canny teachers are filling the gaps with worksheets and booklets. However that in class reference for these topics is an issue.
I thought I’d get a few class maths dictionaries – you know, the little pocket sized ones. Dead-end: no one publishes them anymore. Then I thought ‘Just get standard Maths dictionaries’: no chance, they are over £10 each. I saw a celebrity endorsed child’s Maths support book in my local discount store, bright and colourful, only £5 … except it didn’t have the content for GCSE. I was about to give up when a search of Amazon took me back to 1979…
Peter Robson published his Maths Dictionary through Newby books back in 1979.
It’s got the new curriculum fairly well covered too. The diagrams date it a little, but for roughly £4 it is a little gem.There are not only facts, but examples and diagrams in an unintimidating fashion. It’s also a handy A5 booklet size.
I’ve bought one for each of my group tables. It’s available from lots of online retailers, including a bulk discount for 10 or more on Amazon. I’d suggest getting one for yourself to review and then leave in your desk drawer for general reference.
I don’t know where to start – in a few clicks you have access to tiered questions on a multitude of topics with answers. Answer in an exercise book or on a mini whiteboard – it’s genius! Another click and the questions change.
If that wasn’t enough, you can print out individual worksheets at each level – differentiation without a headache.
I chose to print out the three tiers and award them points. Bronze = 1 point, Silver = 2 points, Gold = 3 points. I put together a cover sheet with instructions and the students instantly had control of their homework. All I asked for was 20 points of answers. The ones who need the practise can do lots of low scoring questions, the ones who need a challenge can do fewer questions at a harder level. My task is available to download below (full credit to Mr Carter given) – It prints nicely as an A5 booklet.