Sunday, January 25, 2015

Math on a plane

who: J1, J2, school friends
where: on a plane flying from BKK to Chiang Mai
when: super duper early in the morning (last week)

For our class trip to Chiang Mai, I prepared a bunch of games to play on the flight. Most of these come from Math4Love, though they can also be found elsewhere.

My prep

Pico Fermi Bagel
This was a real hit with J1 and J2. On the flight up, another school friend was (un?)lucky enough to sit next to us and I roped him into playing. I think he enjoyed it and, at least once, mentioned it to another classmate while we were in the north.

While this game mostly encourages deductive reasoning, I was surprised by some of the things I observed as we played:
  1. The kids enjoyed this most as a collaborative puzzle and neither cared for nor needed a competitive twist to make it interesting.
  2. Being the puzzle master is already a fun challenge for the kids, especially the younger ones. You get to talk with them about whether they have chosen a number with distinct digits or not, answer questions about the definitions of Pico/Fermi/Bagel, and debate whether they are really sure when they assign points to a guessed number.
  3. M4L suggests 3 and 5 distinct digit games, but you should try other variations. J1 and J2 both asked questions about and made conjectures about 1, 2, and 6 digit games. "How many tries are required for a 1 digit game" is a low threshold question and a 2 digit game is a simpler level to explore the logical inferences available.
Hares and Hounds
We only played this very briefly on the trip, but have had a longer discussion since returning. For what it is worth, J1 was immediately frustrated by the restriction on the hounds' movement and decided to create a super-hound that could also move backward. I think this game is worth another attempt, but probably more suited for younger kids. 

Dots and Boxes and Hex were two other classics I thought we would play, but there was enough interest in the other games that we haven't gotten around to them yet.

Which Scripts
I thought this would be a fun activity from NRICH. So far, no real enthusiasm amongst my clan.

The grand winner

So, even though Pico/Fermi/Bagel was loved, I was surprised by the activity that really captivated J2 on this trip: calculating decimal expansions of fractions!

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