## Monday, February 7, 2011

### The Value of Traditional Resources

One of my goals before I leave the school in June is to review as many activities booklets and math videos as I can. Speaking for myself, I am often so overwhelmed by the many resources that are available on the web, that I forget that there can be really good things in those dusty activities booklets as well. On at least a couple of occasions, I have seen something on the web, thought to myself, "Wow! That's so cool!" only to find out later that it was very similar to something I would have come across in a very non-flashy paperback booklet somewhere on an abandoned shelf.

Our school is a perfect place for me to gain exposure to those abandoned resources. Here, teachers come and go every few years, so even some really great resources that someone may have once cherished can sit untouched for many years afterwards. Last year, I spun up an entire 3-d computer project around worksheets that I had found inside a traditional booklet, and both my Department Head and the kids told me that they loved the project! (The original worksheets were designed for use with physical manipulatives, but since our school didn't have those physical manipulatives, I found a great website that had an amazing applet that did everything the physical manipulatives would do -- including letting the kids drag their model around to view it from different perspectives! That actually worked super well, and the project was really easy/fun to run. I'll blog about it later this year when we get to it again...)

Anyway, today I was flipping through one booklet in my surprisingly copious free time, and found a cool hands-on activity for teaching combinations. You may have seen it (after all, it's quite likely that someone has put this on the web at some point, although some quick googling hasn't turned up anything for me):

Place 5 pennies in the grid below, such that they each take up one space and none of them is in the same row or column. Record your result, then try to find other solutions. How many different solutions are there?

Seems like a fun intro to combinations, no? And to spice it up, you can ask the kids to figure out how many combinations would involve 4 pennies (inside the same 5x5 grid), or 3 pennies, or (generally) n pennies where n < 5! Or what about n pennies inside an m-by-m grid, where n is less than or equal to m?

See? I think there are good things in those booklets. :) With a little creativity, you can turn dusty old lessons into shiny new ones!!

What do you use? Anything I can/should add to my wishlist? There was an AMAZING middle-school activities book (many pages, hardcover) that I once owned but misplaced (think I loaned it to a teacher friend at school and just forgot to bring it home). SO SAD!!! I'm still kicking myself over this years later...