Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wikipedia Math Mazes - Fun filler activity for math class

When I was a high school math teacher I would often do games and activities on the days before breaks.  One of the more popular ones that I created was a "math book maze" that would take the students through several pages of the textbook and ask them to follow steps that usually involved math operations.

For example, it would say, "Take the last number you see on page 257 and divide it by 6.  Go to that page and do problem 16."

If I made the challenges just right students had a lot of fun racing through the steps hoping to get the correct number at the very end before anyone else.

Recently a high school math teacher asked about some technology activities for a similar "fun day" he was having in his basic algebra class.  I updated my idea of the math book maze and called it a Wikipedia Math Maze.

The idea is the same.  Students do some basic math problems and follow directions while they search through Wikipedia.  It went over very well with the students I tested it with.  Here it is as a Google Document:

Wikipedia Math Maze 1 - March 2013

I quickly realized that Wikipedia is updated frequently and it can throw off my maze!  The day before the activity I found I had to change some of the numbers because new footnotes had been added to one of the entries.  If you base it on a well known topic it would be possible the details could change even during the day you hand it out.  This is not an assignment to copy at the start of the year!

An obvious extension of this assignment (possibly for an advanced class) would be to have the students make their own maze.  While just solving one of the mazes requires accuracy and careful reading, making one is even more challenging because one has to be sure the directions are not ambiguous.

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