Here’s the let’s-get-thinking warm up opener I used for my first Math 12 class last night. I shamelessly stole Jason Dyer’s idea and turned it into a three-page set of puzzles.

I handed out the first double-sided page, got them going on that, and when people finished that then I handed them the extra hard follow-up. I had them sitting in groups, gave everyone their own copy but encouraged them to discuss how to solve them. By about 40 min, almost everyone had solved the first two sides and some were as far as the last (incredibly evil) puzzle.

Afterwards I showed them a quadratic equation and asked how many people felt comfortable factoring it to solve. About four hands went up. The rest of them were surprised when I told them they’d already done it. I unpacked some of the good stuff going on in there a bit, probably got too wordy and I think I could’ve made the transition from puzzle to algebra better – maybe with a “reveal” puzzle that had more of the usual algebraic notation / structure embedded in it. Anyway, whatever, they were thinking and doing math for over half an hour on the first day of a night class – I call that a win.

Here are the files. The PDF files are ready to print; the .svg files are the source files made in Inkscape. If you download Inkscape (a free, open-source vector graphics program) you can modify the puzzles and make your own fairly easily. (Cut-and-paste the circles, and there’s an arrow tool to connect them.)

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