Happy New Year 2019

Children in in Changzhou, China, line up to form characters ‘2019’ during a performance to welcome the new year. Photograph: VCG/VCG via Getty Images (and The Guardian)

The UK newspaper, The Guardian, hosts a Monday puzzle column by Alex Bellos, and we have been trying out his first set of puzzles for the new year all based on 2019 & its digits. We’ll share some of our solutions, mathematical musings, and some of the questions that these puzzles brought to mind in the comments. Please feel free to add your own.

1) Date jam

(i) Using each of the digits 2, 0, 1 and 9, exactly once, create expressions that equal all of the numbers from 0 to 12. The expressions can include any of the arithmetical symbols +, –, x, ÷ and √, and brackets. [For example, 0 x (2 + 1 + 9) = 0]

(ii) Create expressions using 2, 0, 1 and 9 for all the numbers from 13 to 20. Again each number must be used once and only once in each expression, but as well as the operators mentioned above you can now use concatenation to make two-digit numbers (e.g. 2 and a 0 can concatenate to 20) and exponentiation (meaning that one number can be the power of another, such as 19)

2) Countdown conundrum

Fill the blanks in the following equation, so that it makes arithmetical sense:

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 = 2019

You are allowed to use any of the basic mathematical operations, +, –, x, ÷, and as many brackets as you like. An answer might look something like (10 – 9 + 8) x (7 – 6 – 5)÷(4 + 3 + 2 + 1) = 2019, but not this one since the equation is incorrect.

Great games for winter nights

We had our school winter extravaganza last night. The choir sang. The band played. Families brought food to share. And while all were enjoying the food & friendship, we also made and decorated game boxes so every participating family had a set of games to play together over the Holidays & through the year. It was a great way to spend a December evening.

What is a great game you like to play with people in your family when you have a winter night at home (maybe with some popcorn & hot chocolate or hot apple cidre)?

Some other thoughts on those poppies

Our Remembrance wreath turned out quite nicely. Making the origami poppies was a good activity allowing some peaceful reflection and also requiring some focused thought. Looking back on the process, a lot goes into making an origami poppy (or any piece of origami). The folds need to be precise. The steps need to be correct. It can seem like a jumble of creases & geometric shapes until a final step turns that paper square into something recognisable & complete.

If you have made one of these origami poppies, what did you notice along the way? What shapes were created? What helped you make your folds precise? What skills does an origami artist need, and where else might they be helpful? Please leave a reply to share your thoughts & observations.

Much to think about

Remembrance Day gives us plenty to think about every year. We’ve been discussing the centennial of the end of the first World War. We have started to learn some about some individual Canadians who served during that terrible conflict. Some were already familiar to us, like Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. We also learned for the first time about some indigenous veterans of Canada’s armed forces, including sharpshooter,  Corporal Francis Pegahmagabow.

Thinking about those people, their stories and all the horrors of war make for some pretty serious conversations & thoughts to ponder. It was good to be able to create something that could be part of our act of remembrance. Origami poppies provided a new challenge for our minds & hand while also keeping us connected to the stories and events we have been learning about, balancing our need to remember and learn from the past with our need to look ahead & keep creating the world we want to live in.

Revised Recycling Routine

We’re recycling more than ever! We are trying to reduce our waste & bring litterless lunches. We still return drink boxes & bottles for refunds. We recycle paper, and we compost our food scraps. There are more mixed containers we can recycle now (even takeout coffee cups!). And with the Recycle BC’s new pilot program for soft plastics and a wonderful volunteer to deliver those items as well as our Styrofoam, we have almost nothing left to send to the landfill.

Our new containers for our hallway stations are making things easier, but we are still learning what to put where. Do you know what to do with your waste at school? Test yourself with this little sorting game. (If you see a warning about Flash, click the link & click “Allow” so the game will run. On the Scratch Website, you can play the full screen version, look inside at the code or even try your own remix.)

Making Rectangles

Making Rectangles

We’ve tried some cooperative challenges over the last couple of weeks. In the most recent, teams of four students each had to make four identical rectangles from a set of sixteen different shapes. The catch was that no one was allowed to use their voice nor to make any gestures. Team members could give a piece to another person if we thought it would help them, but we could not reach over and take a shape from someone else.

All of the teams were successful at working very silently. Some managed to make four identical rectangles; some did not. But while the task was to make the rectangles following the rules, the overall goals were to: 

  • Respond to the needs of others
  • Help others to do things for themselves

I’m wondering how students felt during the activity; what helped; and how well the students feel they did at meeting these two overall goals.