Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Math Challenges and Activities for High Level Thinkers

It's that time of year.  No, not the holiday season; although I'm ready for that except for the whole shopping thing.  This picture showed up on my Bing Dynamic computer wallpaper yesterday and I had to take a picture.  Christmas on the beach?  Yes, please.  It's a windchill of one here so this image was dreamy.

It's actually that time when I've finally figured out my students and I feel comfortable with my ability to tackle their needs and help them out.  It takes awhile.

This doesn't mean I didn't know my students back in September or October.  It just means that now I really know them.  I know how they learn.  I know what makes them tick.  I know how to approach new concepts.  I know what kind of interaction they can handle as a group versus individually.  We're finally there.  ...And now there will be a 2 week break.

Every class has it's fair share of students who need extra support and those who, without fail, will fly through everything you can possible hand them and will come running back with "I'm finished!  Now what can I do?".  It is really it's own element of teacher torture.  Wasn't that enough?  What do you mean your'e finished already and it's all correct and you want something else to work on?  My goal is always to find the greatest possible activity that requires the most possible effort on their part and the least possible time on mine.  Mission: Impossible.

So I set out to figure out what my few high level thinkers can work on in their extra time or center time in my classroom.  I'll admit I have a special place in my heart for these guys.  They are just so much fun to work with.  I gathered some of my favorite resources- unfortunately not all these are free this time around, but I threw a few in- and put them together to demonstrate how I attempt to challenge those kiddos in my classroom.  We only have two classroom computers right now, so tablets and apps aren't quite in our realm of possibilities at the present moment.  I'm sure they will make their grand entrance here in the near-ish future.  I can't tell you how many times I've wished I could bring something up on a tablet and hand it over to them to work through!  (not in a "here's some busy work" kind of way, but in a "this is amazing and you will learn so much" kind of way)

It's a work in progress, as is any teaching endeavor.  I never feel like anything is quite good enough, but that's what keeps me on my toes.

And if you're like me and you truly love the nerdy stuff (I do!), then you can skip to the bottom and check out the free online informaion I found about gifted and talented students and how teachers can meet their needs.  Otherwise, on to the good stuff...

**These are just websites, products, resources and ideas that I love; not paid endorsements!

{SET puzzles}
It's a card game, too, if you care to purchase it.  Otherwise head over to the New York Times SET puzzle page and have them try the puzzle of the day for free.  It changes daily and is a great brain puzzle.  I usually pop it up on the SmartBoard or hand over my tablet for some quick solving.

{Zupelz and Origo Think Tank}
Each grade in our school got a free set of these this year.  A relative of a parent is an Origo rep and got them for us.  They win, because now I'm writing about how much I enjoy it...

I am loving {Zupelz}.  I even contemplated purchasing my own set (they were $99.99, but are currently clearanced for 30% and are $41- super tempting).  It's a bit pricey, yes, and there's also an online (less expensive) version.  The box set is a set of 100 number puzzles for students to solve.  I have them use dry erase markers or put them in SmartPals.  I have two this year that have worked through the fourth grade set already and even finished the fifth grade set.  Now they are working on making their own puzzles.  It's been excellent!

If you have 72 seconds, you can check it out in their video.

We also have the {Think Tank} problems- two boxes total.  They are hard!  It's really great for self-motivated learners.  They work through those on notecards and turn them in to me and the problems get progressively harder.

{Crypto Challenge}
I love this game and actually went ahead and made my own Crypto Challenge "boards" to hang in my classroom and change out weekly.  I find it really difficult to do, which only makes my students love it more.

{Ten Marks}
I love Ten Marks.  I even blogged about them {here}.  I used it a bunch last year because I had a really high group of boys.  I had them working a grade level ahead on their math skills and it was the perfect way to push them further with their math skills.  They would all grab laptops and get working, and if they had a question they asked each other and figured it out.

This can also be used for those students that need extra help.  Plus it gives you data!  Bonus!

{Tangrams Questions}
Ok, so this one is a bit pricey at $38 for a binder of tangram shapes.  What makes it different is that it's not just shapes to make.  Each page has questions that go with each shape to add an extra element of strategic thinking.  For instance, it might have students make a square using 5 tangram pieces, then with 4 pieces, and then with 3.  I pop these in my SmartPals and they are off.

{Chocolate Caper} and {Math One Hour Mysteries}
Love.  It.  The Great Chocolate Caper has been one of my favorite things to do with higher level math students.  It took a few weeks, but it was so much fun.  We developed our chocolate recipe and it was stolen.  *gasp*  We solved puzzles and collected clues along the way to find our thief and in the end we adjusted our recipe to feed all of us and attempted some chocolate making.  Key word here was attempted.

Math One Hour Mysteries (there are at least three different books) are great deductive reasoning mysteries that take considerably less time than the Great Chocolate Caper, so if you're looking for an activity for a 30 minute or 60 minute class time, these are a better choice.

{Math Challenges and Logical Thinking Problems} for gifted students
The entire book divided by age level and FREE!  Brain teasers and logical thinking problems for students.  YAY!

{The Infinite Cat Project}
How do you keep a student busy for hours on end?  I vote for the {cat game}.  I could probably play for hours so I don't bring it up too often.  Sometimes at indoor recess to keep things interesting and to to get us thinking strategically.  The goal is to get the cat trapped inside a cage of dots, but every time you click a dot, the cat moves a dot.  Try to play just one game.  I bet you can't.

Here's the nerdy stuff...
{Gifted and Talented Students} - An amazing resource from the Department of Education in Australia.

What do you use in your classroom to keep your high ability group engaged?


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing these amazing ideas. We are leveled at my school and this year I have the high group. Our grouping changes from year to year, but these look like amazing resources and ideas. Thanks for sharing.