My very first year of teaching I had a lot of unique experiences, as does pretty much everyone who is in their first year of teaching. One of these “special” moments involved a student in my 8th grade Algebra I Honors class. This student – we’ll call him Bailey – was a great kid: funny, bright, athletic. I liked him a lot. In fact, the whole class was a lot of fun. One day, I was teaching up at the overhead (yes, back in the days when overheads were the “cutting edge” technology…jeez, I’m old…) and all of a sudden, the entire class starts to giggle. It spread like wildfire until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Finally, I gave up and asked them what was so funny. They delighted in telling me that Bailey, apparently, had climbed out the window, walked around the school, and then walked back into class and sat down in his seat without my noticing. Oops.
Rather than be angry at Bailey (and really, how could I? what he did was hysterical), I recognized the need for my teaching to change so that the students were more engaged and less likely to resort to such antics to amuse themselves. In response to this self-reflection, I created a set of Algebra puzzles. I made a 3 by 3 grid and on each edge I put a problem/solution pair. I also put a problem or a solution around the edges, making sure they didn’t have a matching counterpart. Then, I cut up the squares and shuffled them around and gave them to small groups of students to try and piece back together. It took a while, but trust me when I say no students wanted to climb out the window whenever we did this “game”. They were in love with solving the puzzles – especially when I would give bonus points to the team who solved it first. I made several versions of them with varying skills/concepts. It was something I tried to do on Fridays at least 1-2 times a month.
If this sounds like something your students would like, check out my teacher store on TeachersPayTeachers to preview and purchase the product: Fun Algebra Puzzles