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Summer SAVY 2018: Session 2, Day 1 – Puzzles and Problem Solving (Rising 5th and 6th)

Posted by on Monday, June 18, 2018 in Grade 5, Grade 6, SAVY.

The Puzzles and Problem Solving class first investigated the Ultimatum Game ( and the Prisoner’s Dilemma (’s_dilemma). The students then played a 2-player card game, attempting to determine the winning strategy. The problem goes like this:

“Given a deck of 21 cards, players alternate turns by taking one, two, or three cards (that is, you must take at least one but cannot take more than three). The winner of the game is the person who takes the final card. Is there a strategy you could use that would guarantee you would win?”

Students played this game several times and noticed patterns and important situations as they arose. Once the initial problem was solved, we changed the problem in multiple ways (including introducing some abstract concepts!) to continue to develop our understanding of the prompt. Some of these extensions remained elusive for many today, although the students were making progress!

In the afternoon, we looked a dice game called “Petals Around the Rose.” It involves being able to decipher a riddle through understanding various rolls of the dice. This proved challenging for several students, but we made some headway as we struggled. We learned what the roses were, and gradually we had built enough knowledge to be able to solve the riddle. Later in the week, we will look at a slightly more complicated dice game. Today’s game can be played here if you are interested:

Later in the day, we worked on a couple of puzzles where one has to successfully transport people or objects across barriers given certain restrictions. I was most impressed with how successful the groups were in getting the Beatles to their concert on time! The initial reaction of several students was to exclaim, “This is impossible!” Many, however, were ultimately successful in solving the problem.


At the very end of the day, we had a brief introduction to the game of ZipZap, a counting game with strange rules that will often be our wrap-up to a long day of class. We were just practicing counting today, and students were getting the hang of it as we went along.

My plan was for students to be bringing home a green folder with them. It should have the three handouts from today if you are interested in puzzling along with the students or asking them to explain what they learned in class. I ask that students bring this folder back with them each day, as we will continue to add fun puzzles and problems to the mix! Several students did ask me if they could leave it here overnight, and I let them do so today, but I would (and did) encourage them to bring it home and back daily moving forward.

I am looking forward to the rest of the week!


–Mr. Gray