“Letters And Numbers” is a game show that used to be shown on SBS. In this Australian adaptation of a French TV show, contestants battle to form the longest possible words out of letters picked at random, and to reach a given number target using only specific numbers also drawn at random.
In our class, we use the free web-based program “Countdown Maths” to warm up our brains each morning. Students draw 6 numbers at random. They can choose between “big numbers” (from a pool consisting of 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100) and “small numbers” (1 through to 9). They can draw any combination they like, however no more than 4 big numbers are allowed out of the 6 numbers.
We then draw a target… we have to try and reach the target (or as close as we can) using as many or as few of the numbers as we can (but using each number only once), and any of the four operations.
Here is an example of a draw from a couple of weeks ago:
When the students started using this warm up at the beginning of the year, they found it difficult to reach the target. The tools they were using were fairly straightforward, addition, multiplication, subtraction and sometimes division. After a few months of practice, it is now unheard of for our class to not come up with a solution. And the students have developed their bank of Maths tools with great gusto! They are now very comfortable using powers and square roots (or cubic roots and so forth), and are becoming very creative with their solutions.
When someone finds one way to reach the target, they must challenge themselves to discover another way while other students are still thinking on the puzzle… It is a much enjoyed activity that is helping the students reinforce their number sense.
The draw above was very special… because on that day, we found 11 different ways to reach the target. THAT was a special day!