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Cockcroft on puzzles in maths teaching

I am interested in puzzles and games and how they relate to mathematical thinking, not least through my involvement with the Maths Arcade initiative. I was pleased to read what is said on this topic in the 1982 Cockcroft report. This is the report of an inquiry started in 1978 “to consider the teaching of mathematics in primary and secondary schools in England and Wales, with particular regard to its effectiveness and intelligibility and to the match between the mathematical curriculum and the skills required in further education, employment and adult life generally”.

Emergency Maths Arcade (Or, suggestions of pen and paper mathematical games)

Last week we had a crisis at work — we misplaced the key to the Maths Arcade cupboard, in which we store the games (don’t ask!). So I was on the look out for something to do without opening the cupboard — i.e. on pen and paper — and I turned to Twitter for help. What suggestions did I get? What did we do in our Emergency Maths Arcade? Read on.

Maths Arcade cupboard

‘Low barrier, high ceiling’ and the Maths Arcade

I’ve been catching up with the TES Maths Podcast. I just listened to episode 7, towards the end of which guest Brian Arnold shares ‘the Frogs puzzle’. You probably know this, but if not Brian points to the NRICH interactive version which explains:

Imagine two red frogs and two blue frogs sitting on lily pads, with a spare lily pad in between them. Frogs can slide onto adjacent lily pads or jump over a frog; frogs can’t jump over more than one frog. Can we swap the red frogs with the blue frogs?

You know the one? You can play it with coins or counters or people. Anyway, host Craig Barton refers to this as “low barrier, high ceiling”, in that

anyone can do a few moves. So there’s your low barrier, but you can take that, the maths that that goes into! You can extend it to different numbers on either side, everything’s in there.

Much as I dislike the term because it sounds jargony, I realise it describes something I’ve been explaining all week.

Ox Blocks probabilities

I have a new toy. ‘Ox Blocks’ box promises “Noughts and Crosses with a novel twist”.

Ox Blocks game in progress

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