I spent some of today (say, maybe 5 hours) working on finishing up my high school first day of class presentations (by the way, I found this amazing first-day-get-to-know-you sheet on dy/dan which I’m definitely stealing), as well as writing up emergency lesson plans for all my classes. These plans are what the school has on file for the substitute in case I am ever (gasp! God forbid!) out sick.

For my middle school class, I am going to have them play “24” if I’m absent. (Unfortunately, I don’t own the game, so I am going to have to construct my own game cards this weekend.) It seems perfect because it has to be related to what they’re studying, and yet not be tied to the curriculum, because I could be sick the 2st week or the 30th week. And 24 tests something that gets retaught in the first week (order of operations — PEDMAS) so it can work if I’m sick early on, but still is fun if I’m sick later in the year.

Instead of giving my high school students busywork worksheets, I decided to give them genuine math-dork-approved-stamped math puzzles. When looking for a few accessible, non-stupid, non-IMO level puzzle sites, I came across this gem, from which I stole all my puzzles from in one fell swoop. Who’d’ve thunk thank I wouldn’t have to steal bits and pieces from a thousand different sites? This was a great find.

I am pretty confident that the puzzles I chose for the two classes (Algebra IIand Calculus — click to see lesson plans) are age and level appropriate. But maybe not? I used to be a huge math puzzle freak [1], so when it comes to puzzles, I know I have a distorted sense of “easy” and “hard.”

The reason I really like them is because the solutions to these problems can each lead to a wonderful extended discussion of “proofs,” “combinatorics,” and “graph theory” among others. Plus, I think these are the types of problems that kids can really work together on. I’m slightly afraid that the inability to get a solution in a minute or less (how long most students take per homework problem) will lead to great frustration.

Maybe I should give the substitute a hint for each problem, for when the kids get stuck?

(As an aside: I really want my kids — especially my calculus kids — to leave class knowing what a “proof” is and why it’s important. Yeah, I will introduce the epsilon-delta proofs, and I’ll derive some things for them, but I want them to know what makes a proof watertight — not just accept a proof because “the teacher said so.” And the best way for them to know is to do.)

[1] Not only did I attend Mathcamp (more than once), but I also completely of my own volition found and started writing solutions to the USAMTS competition problems when I was in high school.

I am going to “borrow” some of your ideas. Thank you for saving me time making my Emergency Lesson Plans!