Critical Thinking Activities – Math Circles
A few days ago, I mentioned that we started back into homeschooling with Math Circles rather than jumping into our “normal” math curriculum. What are math circles? From what I understand, they started in Russia where they hosted math contests. Students competed to answer various word problems. The contest itself was designed to get students intrigued and excited about mathematics. There’s something similar here in the US called the Math Olympiad. But, in general it’s just a form of math enrichment with games, stories or hands-on activities.
At the time I started looking into it, math just wasn’t their favorite time of day. I wanted to change that. I bought several books and we started going through these. By far our favorite one is Mathematical Circle Diaries, Year 1: Complete Curriculum for Grades 5 to 7 Note: The books I mention here are affiliate links.
The kids love the puzzles — like this one that I mentioned a couple of days ago:
Top: Moving just two match sticks, make six.
Bottom: 8 matchsticks are laid out to look like a fish swimming to the left. Moving just three matchsticks, make the fish swim to the right
They also have been working through logic word problems like on the island of knights and liars, knight always tell the truth and liars always lie… Then the book goes on to set up scenarios and ask who is the knight and who is the liar. The kids love these and BEG for more!
We also add in Critical Thinking activities. The past week the kids have done a Sudoku puzzle. We use the free sets from Krazy Dad. He has made hundreds and hundreds of Sudoku puzzles for kids in 4×4 squares, 6×6 squares and 8×8 squares and other sudoku puzzles (that are even harder!). For the 4×4 puzzles, you have to fill in the block so that each row, each column and each 2-by-2 block contain all of the digits 1 thru 4. He has easier versions (where more numbers are filled in) and harder versions (where he doesn’t offer as many numbers to start with). He asks for a donation.
This week we pulled out some of the critical thinking puzzles from the Critical Thinking Company’s book, Building Thinking Skills® Level 2. This thick book has both math puzzles and activities as well as various language and science activities.
Note: The books I mention here are affiliate links.
Another books we use fairly regularly is Primary Grade Challenge Math. DD has been going through that book with me. They also have one aimed for older kids, simply called Challenge Math For the Elementary and Middle School Student.
A year or so ago, I also searched the internet for some math puzzles. We’ve worked through this set of problems as well. My kids really enjoyed these. The answers are available in the pdf. 🙂
The kids were so excited when I said we were going to start back with Math Circles! It really made a difference in their attitude about math in general because they realize just how fun and thought-provoking math can be.