I needed to develop an activity for 100-115 students in grades Seven to Eight. All I was told is that it should be about an hour and a half, and be active in nature. The students are taking part in a math contest in the morning, and it would be great to get the blood pumping. I turned these demands to twitter, and came up with some excellent options:
- A building task where students need to develop a structurally sound building out of a certain amount of newspaper and tape.
- The classic spaghetti and marshmallow tower
- A very interesting activity where solutions to questions refer to coordinates of a grid overlayed on a map. The students would then be directed around the university campus using a Cartesian plane.
- Another building that needed to be constructed on a budget. Differing materials range in price and efficiency.
I also didn't want the mathematical element to be in the form of explicit math questions. I wanted the math activity to be an interesting break from the formal testing that the students did the entire morning. This meant that the Cartesian grid option was eliminated. (Although I plan to develop this at a later date).
I was left with the scavenger hunt. Traditionally, scavenger hunts are a series of multiple choice questions. Each response moves the team, but they have no idea if they are right or wrong until they either finish the hunt or repeat a question. I began to draw this framework out; it became complicated quickly. In the diagram below, a squiggly line represents a correct answer and a solid line represents an incorrect one. There is one correct and three incorrect from each question. It would take six consecutive correct responses to complete the scavenger hunt.
It's a total mess. It did get students moving, but it still relied on the traditional "question-driven" hunt. I began to grow fond of the complexity that went into a hunt like this. A fairly simple concept has a fairly elaborate mathematical underpinning. Then the idea hit me, what if the framework was shown and the task was to decipher it?
Enter the idea of the "Questionless Scavenger Hunt". I created a map of a possible scavenger hunt with the possible interactions between "questions". I simplified the process by including 9 "questions" with 3 "responses" each.
The goal of the activity is now to use logic to determine which "question" fits in which slot on the map. Every question has it's possible destinations listed on a card. The cards were placed in a certain room on campus. The goal can then be re-defined as trying to determine which "room" goes where on the map.
I included 2 anchor rooms on the map. They will serve as the starting point (Room 1) and a reference point (Room 5) throughout the activity. Students are given the Room 1 card with the names of the three possible rooms they could be sent to. These three rooms are represented on the map by the rooms that have an arrow pointing to them from Room 1. From there, students need to move around rooms collecting cards of the possible connections from each room. To complete the hunt, they must be able to arrange the remaining 7 rooms on the map so all interconnections work.
Here are some pictures of the files that can be downloaded here.
|The Scavenger Hunt Map (given to each student or group)|
|The cards that can be found in the respective rooms (Need to be cut and sorted)|
Various strategies could be used to complete. Groups may just collect the cards from each room and then sit down and try to puzzle it out. Other groups may use a process of elimination. If they pick up a card from Room 3 and it does not list Room 1 as a possible destination, than any space that has an arrow pointing to Room 1 can't possibly be Room 3.
The result should be an energetic twist on a classic favourite. I am expecting students to come with correct answers. (These are very gifted students). I plan on challenging them to prove that their solution is unique. If students claim it is impossible, I will question them as to why. Every mathematical step needs to be justified.
The materials can be customized to your situation. Choose a starting room and replace "Room 1" with the name or number of that space. Do the same thing with 8 other rooms around your building. I altered my activity to fit the Arts building of the local university. If you wanted to implement it on a smaller scale, set up nine "stations" around the classroom. Put a stack of cards at each one, and students could move around the room looking for logical connections.
This was a great learning experience for me. I struggled with the possibility of creating a puzzle with a viable solution. I often learn the most mathematics when I am trying to create meaningful experiences for my students.
I would like to see a possible "Questionless Scavenger Hunt" with more than 9 stops. That is the challenge if you choose to accept it.