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Summer SAVY 2017, Session 1/Day 1- Puzzles and Problem Solving (Rising 4th/5th)

Posted by on Monday, June 12, 2017 in Grade 3, Grade 4, SAVY blog.

It was a great first day of SAVY! Today, 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 many 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 good progress!

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.

Students should be bringing home a green folder with them. It should have the four 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!

In general, I was so impressed by student interest and enthusiasm today. Several students wanted to spend time during breaks talking to me about the problems we were tackling. I appreciate all of the positive energy that they bring to the classroom, and I look forward to the rest of the week!

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