Perseverance is Key in These Two Puzzles: Newsletter January 25, 2017

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Parents often ask us to list the best math toys and games for children. The good news is there are quite a few excellent ones out there. The great news is that most likely you already own some of the best math toys around.

Cups, spoons, sticky tape, markers, rubber bands, paper plates, buttons, twine, and many other household objects are awesome for exploring mathematical ideas.

In our book Avoid Hard Work book and its online course (launching on January 26), we use yarn, carrots, and LEGO minifigures to help in problem-solving.

Let’s transform a few items you probably have lying around right now into a mathematical problem-solving activity that is accessible and fun for all ages. You will need a few sticks. Use popsicle sticks, toothpicks, or markers. Or found twigs that are about the same length. 

Fish Matchstick Puzzle

Turn the fish in the picture so it swims in the opposite direction, by moving just three sticks.

Cherry Glass Matchstick Puzzle

This glass has a fly in it. Move two sticks to place the fly outside of the glass.

These and other classic matchstick puzzles are all about the geometry of transformations. By moving sticks, you reflect or rotate the fish, the glass, or other shape, but never stretch or otherwise distort it.

The key to these puzzles is to not give up. “Perseverance is Key” is one of the ten principles we discuss in Avoid Hard Work book and workshop. Keep trying different ways of moving the matchsticks. You will build intuition about the problem and eventually make your way to the solution. It is okay to take your time.

Have more good puzzles that help with perseverance? Reply to this email to share and discuss your favorites! This is all about making your home or class richer in mathematics. Not by obtaining more stuff, but through new ways to play and learn!


See you online!

Yelena McManaman, Dr. Maria Droujkova, and the Natural Math crew


Questions? Email

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