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kznelius

Ideas for fun middle school math focusing on problem solving?

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My rising 5th grader completed Singapore 1-5 at the end of third grade. After struggling a bit with the curriculum Go Math at the beginning of this year (something I got from his teacher advisor), I decided we'd take a year to cement some skills in a low pressure way by having him work through Texting Textbooks 7, which he is just about finished with. I'm trying to figure out what I direction I want to go with him next year. He is intuitively pretty good at math, though not a particularly confident problem solver when he is confronted with something that he doesn't know the "procedure" for. This very likely has something to do with his maturity level more than anything else, but leads me to the decision that I don't want to move ahead with him too fast because I don't think he's ready for it yet. The other piece of this is that, although he is quite good at math, he is starting to say that he doesn't like it. So, I'm hoping to spend next year working on some problem solving techniques, and also letting him have a little fun with math. Anyone know of any great resources that might accomplish both of these tasks?

I've read through some great threads, but many of them were focused on students that are a bit older or more mathematically advanced, so I thought I'd see if anyone has any middle school specific resources that they think might fit the bill.

Some that I've got on the list are: Murderous Maths, Tops Math, The Cryptoclub, The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat. Any comments on these resources or ideas about others? Thanks!

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Critical Thinking Company sells a book called "Algebra Word Problems" with lessons, examples and 100+ practice problems grouped together by type--it's perfect for kids to get proficient at tackling basic algebraic word problems and learn to set them up, and solve them. I think it's doable for a kid who has done PM1-5 with understanding and has support from a teacher/parent.

Additionally, there are Various Math Contest Papers such as Mini MuSunshine Math and Math Stars. which can offer fun/novel problems to mull over.

For variety, you can get a used edition of a "math for liberal arts" text book and go through some of the chapters in it.
We used Thinking Mathematically (aka The Cow Book) and Mathematics: A Human Endeavor and they were fun diversions. You don't have to do every section, but pick a few chapters that seem doable with your kid.

The Number Devil was a repeat-read at our house.

One thing that The Boys really enjoyed was doing the math for (imaginary) buildings or construction projects. They were really into that for a while. They'd look up materials, and price lists, etc and make up their own numbers and talk about how much/long/many XYZ project would cost/take etc.

Numerical word riddles were one clue at a time is given are a favorite past time.

Learning to perform advanced mental calculations was pretty fun if you develop the skill to high levels. If he's already proficient at mental calculations, then as his algebraic skills grow, it can be fun to look up the various number "tricks" and examine them to see how/why they work.

The Arithmetic portion of the GRE has some fun brain-teaser type problems that are really accessible to any body who knows their elementary math really well.

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A few more ideas:
Jousting Armadillos
Zacarro Challenge
TOPS Graphing or TOPS Probability
Patty Paper Geometry
Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra Physics
Beast Academy 5

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I think Beast Academy is a good idea :-). We've been doing problems from Math Kangaroos for word problems, so that's another contest to look into. We also bought the set of Murderous Maths books, which are really too hard for my first grader, but she loves them anyway:

https://www.amazon.com/Murderous-Maths-Box-Poskitt-Kjartan/dp/140713194X/ref=sr_1_1?hvadid=2012358788&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&hvqmt=e&keywords=murderous+maths&qid=1554476839&s=gateway&sr=8-1

I might also do a year of "no procedure" math, though. See how he solves problems WITHOUT a procedure. Treat all of his suggestions as serious and explore them, even when they don't exactly go like the "correct" solution, if they are on the right track. For example, if the question is "How many cookies does each of three people get if we have 51 cookies and we split them equally?", you're "supposed" to do 51/3 = 17, but it's not wrong to check 3 times what is 51, or "What added to itself 3 times is 51?" or even "Let's see what happens if I get 51 things and try to split them into piles." You'd then explore more efficient ways of doing it, but the idea is to affirm a child's engagement with a problem. 

ETA: I see you've already got Murderous Maths on your list, sorry!

Edited by square_25
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