Puzzling with 2nd Graders

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

My dear friend Miriam invited me to play with her 2nd Grade class at Rose Avenue, a public school in Modesto California. After reviewing our Rules of the Game where I explain that we are pretending we are taking our brains to the playground and that mistakes are super welcome as opportunities to learn, I posted a low-entry warm-up problem from that would surely engage everyone:

After a couple of minutes the hands started to go up and the first student to share thought the answer was nine. Sometimes students count four instead of five, but nine? My reaction is always one of deep curiosity. Unexpected answers are my puzzle to solve: this is the CORRECT answer to which question? (counting the matches in this case).

The most excitement came with the following logic puzzle:

They discovered at least three different ways to think about this: looking for a figure that wasn't already used, focusing on the alternating colors, looking at what is happening with the orientation of the triangles. Same problem, different strategies. Will these 2nd graders be more curious and interested in learning about their peers' thinking from now on?

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