Tag Archives: Problem Solving

The Birthday Heist Breakout (non math post) #escape #breakout


Students’ last day was Friday, with Graduation and Project Graduation that night.

I must be getting older or something, I cannot bounce back as quickly after an almost 24 hour day.  My friend and I created a short Breakout Room for the Seniors at PG “A Year Like No Other” and I will post our clues and game later.

Sunday night my 12 year old told me she would like a breakout room for her birthday.  Monday evening while getting supplies, I picked up a boxed set of 4 games.  She gave a look and informed me she thought I was going to make up one just for her.  Hmmm.  I sat up past my usual bedtime and began planning, wondering what all I could recycle from the Project Graduation game…

Here are the items used for the Birthday Heist:


There were 5 locks they had to get through – the black box has a combination lock as well.  Notice I’ve attached the codes with papers in case its a few months before I need them and I likely will not remember each code.  I learned that the hard way.  Most re-settable locks require you to open before resetting.


I love having fake clues / distractors.  Pictures of people with #’s in the pictures in a folder are great, easy and cheap.  Some of our crumpled “bookmarks” actually read “fake clue.”


Here is a document that outlines my clues / process with The Birthday Heist.  It was a 30 minute game the girls completed in about 28 minutes.  S/O to Ms. KC Potter and some of her ideas/documents I modified for our use!

The Birthday Heist –  goal was to retrieve five items needed for the birthday party.  It seems fairly versatile and can be modified to reflect your birthday group.


It was fun watching the girls.  Most had never played breakout before.  I was shocked several had never played with tangrams…heartbreaking!  They wouldn’t give up on the square, even after breaking out with a different clue, they went back to see if they could complete that puzzle!

Send me a link to your birthday game if you create one / modify mine!  I want to hear how it goes!



Enticing Students to Think with Food


What better way to end our semester than a few tasks involving food?  Sometimes the last weeks of school can be filled with multiple distractractions.  In hopes of holding my students’ attention while they’re in class, I am bribing them to think with food.  Yes, I have fallen to enticing them with external rewards.








With the Oreo Mega Stuff,  A Recursive Process offers some research by Chris & Chris.  My plan is to follow the QFT model outlined here.  I just recently became aware of the Question Formulation Technique which I shared in this post.  The Q-Focus is simply to display my package of Mega Stuf Oreos, wondering what questions they have – recording all of their comments as questions …and follow the process allowing them to determine their own questions, lead their own learning.  Though I would hope they would approach this from a volume stand-point – letting them design their own questions may lead to other ideas and I am fine, so long as they are thinking and talking math, yes they may eat their research tools once they’ve answered their chosen question.  The final product will be a 30-second pro/con commercial Mega vs. Original supported by their mathematical findings.

Offering several stations to review surface area and volume formulas utilizing various candies as they are packaged as well as the infamous pouring water from a pyramid to a cube / cylinder to a cone will be modeled as one of the station activities.

Finally, using the  Ice Cream Cone  found at Illustrative Mathematics.

ICE CREAM prompt and file

As a “reward” for successfully completing this task, I think a class Ice Cream Party would be appropriate.  I just need to know how much ice cream I should purchase to ensure everyone has plenty to enjoy without too many leftovers.  Assuming the cones are filled with ice cream with a “spherical” scoop atop – sounds like a great homework practice problem to me…

Geometric Measurement and Dimension (GMD)  Explain volume formulas and use them to solve problems
  • G-GMD.1 – Give an informal argument for the formulas for the circumference of a circle, area of a circle, volume of a cylinder, pyramid, and cone. Use dissection arguments, Cavalieri’s principle, and informal limit arguments.
  • G-GMD.3 – Use volume formulas for cylinders, pyramids, cones, and spheres to solve problems.
  • G-MG.A.3 : Modeling with Geometry- Apply geometric methods to solve design problems (e.g., designing an object or structure to satisfy physical constraints or minimize cost; working with typographic grid systems based on ratios).
Several times this year, I’vfe gotten the GMD (geometric measureme and dimension) and MG (modeling with geometry)domains mixed up, I am slowly beginning to internalize the new notations. 🙂

I also like this prompt: Doctor’s Appointment for GMD-A.3.

On a side note – Reading an article in MT the other night – I wondered, “Was I supposed to know that?”

The derivative of area of a circle is the circumference?  The derivative of volume of a sphere is surface area?  Similarly…derivative of area of square is half the perimeter, derivative of volume of cube is half surface area…  How/Why did I miss that? Or did I know it at some point but just pushed it aside years ago?  Interesting…made me wonder and I started looking at other figures – will share more later.