The Froblem: Math Fair Challenges!

Suppose there were 7 lily pads in a row. 6 frogs sit on 6 lily pads, with an empty one in the middle. The 3 red frogs on the right lily pads want to switch places with the 3 blue frogs on the left lily pads. To do it, they may either: a) hop over one empty lily pad at a time, or b) hop over a frog onto an empty lily pad, like jumping your opponent in the game of checkers. How many moves would it take you to help the frogs switch lily pads? Could you do it in less than 17 moves?

The Froblem

Amanda and Maddie posed this question at grade 7/8’s first ever “Math Fair” on January 25th. Guests visiting their exhibit heard a little story about the six frogs and were invited to solve the puzzle on a handmade game board complete with lily pads and movable frogs. Grades 4 to 7 toured the Math Fair a class at a time, poring over puzzles, mazes and conundrums like Amanda and Maddie’s, solving some and remaining stumped by others. Exhibits offered challenges which included: a three-headed dragon to slay in a series of complicated steps, matchstick pictures to morph by moving one matchstick, mazes requiring several checkpoint crossings, and counterfeit coins to identify by weighing. It was a fun and engaging morning interrupted only by prize draws at the end of each class’ visit–solving two puzzles earned a ballot for the draw! It was clever of us to include the prizes as they helped to pull the students (and Mr. Kooy) away from the exhibits and towards the exit line up before the next class showed up!

students solving challenge

One of my favourite things about being an LHCS teacher is the occasional opportunity to invite younger classes upstairs to learn with the seniors (a.k.a. “the big kids”). Each year my class hosts a project fair and everyone involved enjoys the co-operative learning and cross-grade interaction that go with it. Preparations for our Math Fair began right after Christmas with students selecting logic puzzles to present. Each project began with a little story to introduce the topic and puzzling situation to solve. Students worked alone or in pairs to develop their narratives and manipulative activities, always keeping their young guests in mind. They developed puzzle solutions ahead of time and memorized them so that they would not have to include any “spoilers” in their displays. It was a pleasure to watch my students graciously welcome the younger classes and challenge each visitor at his/her level of ability, to understand the challenge and to work together towards solving the problems. The senior students discovered quickly that the Math Fair wasn’t just about mathematics; it was about storytelling, mentoring, entertaining and celebrating when a problem is solved.

students working together

I may hold a Math Fair next year in grade 7/8, with some new puzzles by a new group of mathematician storytellers. You will all be invited; stay tuned!

students problem solving

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