We started a unit on problem solving today. (Yes on a Sunday, don’t tell the kids that it was school though, they thought it was a game.) I have several problems lined up for them to solve, but I am still looking for more. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment.

Cold and Hot jars: This one was way to easy for Dearie, but it was fun for everyone. I put two jars on the table, one full of hot water and the other was full of cold water. Without touching either jar the girls had to figure out which was which.

—They did this one very quickly. They saw steam rising from the hot jar and knew that it was hot. When I demanded proof they put a thermometer in each one and proved it. Then I dropped a few drops of food coloring in each one and we watched as the hot water turned pink much quicker than the cold water did.

Take the animals across the bridge: I will ask the girls to bring me a stuffed rabbit, a stuffed dog, and a stuffed horse. Then I will grab two boxes and we will go across the creek. I will put a box on each side of the creek and tell the girls that they have to move all three animals across the creek. The rules are that only one girl can move animals, and she can carry only one animal at a time. The rabbit cannot be left with the dog (dogs eat rabbits) or with the horse (rabbits scare horses). This is an old puzzle, I originally heard it as a man in a boat and the animals were different, but the logic is still the same. It will be interesting to see how they solve this one.

The girls liked Sunday’s activity so much that they were begging for more. (I don’t think that these activities will last us two weeks!) I refused to give them another activity, but I did tell them about today’s activity so that they could think about it. This morning we had to leave early, and in the car the girls were talking about how to get the animals across the bridge. Dearie was using stickers to act it out (they were in their car seats), and everyone was trying to figure it out. I gave a hint, “If you are standing there with the animals they can be together.” All of a sudden Honey says, “I got it!” And she did have it. When we got home, we went into the backyard and acted it out. Kiddo carried her rabbit across and left it in the box, then she went back and got the dog, carried it across and put it in the box and got out the rabbit. She carried the rabbit back and traded it for the horse and then carried the horse across. Then she went back and got the rabbit. Each girl had a turn acting it out and then I gave them some variations.

I gave the girls a “pass” and said that the pass will get any combination of three girls or animals across the bridge. They could never have more animal than people, or more people than animals, but only people or only animals would be ok. They applied this rule to both sides, but not to the bridge. It did not take them long to figure that one out. So then I told them that the rule applies to the bridge as well. They needed the hint that the animals could walk on their own (they are stuffed and the girls had been carrying them), but they quickly got this one too. They can’t wait for tomorrow’s puzzle!

Get the paper towel wet: I will put a paper towel down on the ground and on it I will place a salad dressing jar that is 3/4 full of water. I will tell the girls that they need to get the paper towel wet and that they are not allowed to touch the jar or the paper towel. The jar is also not allowed to be tipped over. I expect that this one will take them a while to figure out, but I’m sure that they will. I have read them the Aesop fable about the crow how drops rocks in the water to raise the water level, but I’m not sure that they will remember it.

Get the paper towel wet 2: If they use rocks the first time, I will put the jar on the driveway and draw a big square around it. (I will also make sure that there just happens to be a stick in the square. There are a lot of sticks around here so that shouldn’t be a problem.) They will have the same instructions as before, but this time they are only allowed to use what is in the square. —– If they use the stick the first time, I will still draw a square, but I will make sure that the square has rocks in it. —— If they come up with some other method, then I will just let them go at it again, with instructions to do it a different way.

Counting by 1s, 2s, and 3s: For this challenge, I will give the girls felt squares with the numbers 1-12 written on them. Then I will tell them to line the numbers up so that while holding hands, and each girl moving only one square at a time, they can each move as follows: Dearie by 3s, Honey by 2s, and Kiddo by 1s. This one will be as much about cooperation as it is about logic.

Squared X: I will draw a square on the driveway and then draw an X inside it. I will tell the girls to walk on all lines, but to only walk on each line once. This is not possible, and it will be interesting to see how they react to it.

Moving marbles: For this one, I will put 15 marbles on the deck and 10 rocks on the ground. The girls will be given a bucket and told these rules. 1) The bucket has to have 3 rocks or marbles in it to go up. 2) It has to have 5 rocks or marbles in it to go down. 3) The bucket can not go up or down if it is empty. 4) Move all of the rocks to the deck, and all of the marbles to the ground. — This is one that I think that I will have them work it out with paper dots before they start. It could take a really long time otherwise.

I will add to this post as we do the activities. You will find how the kids did in red.

Tags: gifted, homschooling, math, math games, problem solving

April 5, 2009 at 10:47 am

We tried the animals and the wet the towel….with variations for our backyard.

The animal one didn’t take too long…we used the patio steps instead of a bridge.

The wet the towel…they grabed a small shovel from the sandbox and took water out of the jar…..so, I drew a large square around the jar and said they could not step inside the jar….so Matt went for the hockey stick. I then said they could not touch the jar with anything that was touching them. After getting out a bucket of rocks, he first tried throwing rocks at the jar and then used the hockey stick to drop rocks into the jar. (our jar was a widemouth short salsa jar). It was fun though.