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Exploring Conundrums & Juggling Number Puzzles - Highlights of Day 3 at Sunnyside Young Explorers Weekend Workshops

Session 1: Conundrums & Non Fiction Adventures ~ Delving into the world of non-fiction, solving brain-teasers, and finding facts to become reading champs.

I believe all of us at one point in time, perhaps even more so, have been paralysed thinking of the consequences of our decision making. It is one of most essential skills to develop in life but can decision making be taught. Do real life situations always warrant a right or wrong answer? Not really. Hence we decided to focus on this essential life skill for our next workshop: Conundrums and Nonfiction Adventure.

We started off with an interesting icebreaker, The Sun shines Circle game. It paved the way forward to our next activity. We conversed about the definition of a conundrum so there was clarity before starting off. Then, the children were introduced to “The Masterpiece” conundrum by Astra Nova. It described a scenario and the children were given different options at the end of it to make a choice and elucidate their rationale in writing. The entire process was walked through together as a team followed by an in-depth classroom discussion. At the end of it, we chewed over the skills that this activity helped develop. The children were able to articulate that it made them recognize the choices life’s problems may present to them. It was for them to choose from one of those choices or to come up with their own alternative. Talk about creativity and I wasn’t sure if they understood the depth of the word.

The children were then divided into two teams and each team now worked on another conundrum independently.  The ensuing discussion reflected their thinking, collaboration and reasoning. To make a decision involves logical reasoning, problem-solving, adaptability and emotional intelligence. But most important of all, a conundrum teaches us that life is not always about ‘The Right Answer’ but rather life is a compromise or trade-off. When we learn to balance our priorities which are not always attainable at the same time, then to take informed decision to trade off gives us the edge in life.

In fact, during the discussion, I was surprised to hear one of them explain to me about ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking that he had to use to arrive at his decision so things moved forward and not come to a standstill. It was then I realized that such discussions need to be facilitated more as skill development is a journey which doesn’t happen in one workshop. 

It was time for a break after an intense session before we embarked on our nonfiction adventure. I wanted the children to be clear that nonfiction is something that gives us information about the world around us rather than limiting its definition to something real or only facts. We next read the book, Snappy Sharks and to fully grasp the concept of nonfiction, we decided to play the nonfiction game.  Everyone took turns to animatedly flick the spinner and excited to see where the arrow landed. Then, they had to complete the task for each corresponding picture. 

The workshop extended for a longer period than planned but can learning skills be rushed. It was an activity that required time for them to process the problem, think through from different perspectives, make informed choices or come up with their own solution to a problem. A game made nonfiction learning easier and they were brimming with enthusiasm for more. All in all, an insightful and fun experience to go through the conundrums and the nonfiction game which helped in skill building and concept learning. Looking forward to more such workshops where learning is ‘sunny’.

Session 2 - Math Marvels ~ Playing with numbers, discover patterns, solve puzzles & exploring some interesting math stories.

Number talks are interesting discussion starters. They provide valuable insight into how the class is looking at numbers,  patterns, arrangements and counting. We did number talks with randomly arranged dots, dots in a ten frame, and dots arranged as arrays. The children were given counters to rearrange the dots in a way which makes counting easier. A flurry of activity and discussions followed, with kids coming up with interesting patterns on how they perceive and what arrangements make counting easier. Some had multiple ideas and wanted multiple sets of counters. 

We then moved on to puzzle packs. Children were divided into teams, and each team was given a potpourri of logic and pattern based questions to attempt. Reflections, number patterns and arithmetic riddles. They managed to solve most and were puzzled by a few. 

We ended the session recalling a humorous story (The Eighth Donkey - A counting Story from Armenia from the book Mathematwist, Tulika Publishers) on counting, ancient counting techniques and tally marks, adding a light-hearted touch to the mathematical adventures of the day.

~ Authored by Naqeeb Sultana & Rafia Riaz


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