## Year 7 puzzle day

All of year 7 took part in a puzzle day in July. They tried out lots of different puzzles and Mathematical games as they moved around the sports hall. Thank you to Mr Ormston and Ms Myers for setting it all up! The puzzles were paid for as part of the "Creative Learning" programme and will now be used annually for this event, as well as in lessons throughout the year.

We wanted to show mathematics is not a serious and sombre subject. It is about thinking of creative solutions to problems, to think outside the box, to find efficient and systematic ways to solve problems. We thought a great way to do this for the year 7s (who perhaps still had some preconceived ideas of maths from primary school) was to give them a chance to stretch their mathematical skills, and hopefully have some fun, through games and puzzles. We bought over 50 puzzles and games to use on a puzzle day for all the year 7s (two hours for each side of the year) and let the students loose on the games, encouraging them to work out the rules and instructions for themselves. We set up a puzzle carousel that learners could rotate around and we assigned monitors to each game who could learn the game and pass on their knowledge to the next students giving a chance for learners to use communication skills. The monitors were rotated on the second rotation and new monitors assigned so everyone had a chance to try out 4 or 5 games and puzzles. As a department we couldn’t test all the puzzles before the puzzle day (and our opinions may have been vastly different to the students’) so the purpose of the puzzle day was also to test the puzzles and see which students would be best for use in the future.

We interviewed several students after the day about their opinions on puzzle day and on creativity in mathematics in general. Only one student interviewed said they didn’t enjoy the puzzle day and the reason was not the puzzles and games themselves but his group not playing the games properly. Several of the students interviewed believed that playing the games and puzzles helped them with their maths saying that they practiced mathematical skills of ‘logic’, ‘problem-solving’ and ‘addition and subtraction’ and that they enjoyed the puzzles which helped show maths could be fun. One pair who were interviewed were very keen to stress the positive impact on team-building the puzzle day had, that they had to work together to work out how to play without too much help from adults. Students said they enjoyed the puzzles that provided a challenge but weren’t too hard to understand the rules (for example the A-ha brainteaser puzzles, Colour code, Magblocks, Rush Hour) and disliked the puzzles that had long complicated instructions (for example Forbidden Island) or they found too simple and boring (for example Acuity). Most students would like to see the puzzles used in class but some wanted to ensure there was value to the puzzles being used in class; that they were relevant to the topic being studied, or the mathematical content of the puzzles was made more explicit.

When interviewed the students also talked about maths at Tallis as creative in general. None of the students felt that maths was creative at primary school (most said primary school maths was just arithmetic, someone talking at a board and a worksheet) but that at Tallis they had used creativity in approaching problems from different directions, in posters and visual display work they had made (even one student who was particularly negative about everything admitted maths was better at Tallis than at Primary School). Several students said they didn’t like maths at Primary School but they liked maths now. Most of the students thought creativity important in maths, some gave the reason that creativity was important in making maths more fun so students will be more engaged.

In general learners at Tallis do find maths more creative and fun than they did at Primary school and the puzzle day helped to reinforce this idea. Not only have the year 7s have had an enjoyable experience beyond their normal maths lessons but the department now has a large stock of tried and tested resources that can be used with any of the learners we teach to enrich the curriculum.

We interviewed several students after the day about their opinions on puzzle day and on creativity in mathematics in general. Only one student interviewed said they didn’t enjoy the puzzle day and the reason was not the puzzles and games themselves but his group not playing the games properly. Several of the students interviewed believed that playing the games and puzzles helped them with their maths saying that they practiced mathematical skills of ‘logic’, ‘problem-solving’ and ‘addition and subtraction’ and that they enjoyed the puzzles which helped show maths could be fun. One pair who were interviewed were very keen to stress the positive impact on team-building the puzzle day had, that they had to work together to work out how to play without too much help from adults. Students said they enjoyed the puzzles that provided a challenge but weren’t too hard to understand the rules (for example the A-ha brainteaser puzzles, Colour code, Magblocks, Rush Hour) and disliked the puzzles that had long complicated instructions (for example Forbidden Island) or they found too simple and boring (for example Acuity). Most students would like to see the puzzles used in class but some wanted to ensure there was value to the puzzles being used in class; that they were relevant to the topic being studied, or the mathematical content of the puzzles was made more explicit.

When interviewed the students also talked about maths at Tallis as creative in general. None of the students felt that maths was creative at primary school (most said primary school maths was just arithmetic, someone talking at a board and a worksheet) but that at Tallis they had used creativity in approaching problems from different directions, in posters and visual display work they had made (even one student who was particularly negative about everything admitted maths was better at Tallis than at Primary School). Several students said they didn’t like maths at Primary School but they liked maths now. Most of the students thought creativity important in maths, some gave the reason that creativity was important in making maths more fun so students will be more engaged.

In general learners at Tallis do find maths more creative and fun than they did at Primary school and the puzzle day helped to reinforce this idea. Not only have the year 7s have had an enjoyable experience beyond their normal maths lessons but the department now has a large stock of tried and tested resources that can be used with any of the learners we teach to enrich the curriculum.