Today was the first day of our last quarter for the math club. I lost 2 kids from the winter session that were replaced with 3 new ones. (I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't track/count my emails correctly so now I have 16 in the club) So I started from square one again this session with introductions from everyone and a brief discussion of our goals and rules.
I've decided to summarize the rules as being about respect.
1. Respect the classroom which we are borrowing and leave it clean just as we found it.
2. Respect each other both in how we talk to each other and how we listen to each other's ideas.
Goals are pretty loose for this session,. I intend to mostly operate in math circle mode and explore interesting topics.
It was nice to hear from the kids when asked why they were here that several mentioned they were having fun or that the problems we covered were interesting.
While snacking on cookies I also had everyone talk about the recent contests they went to or the Julia Robinson Math Festival. (Which I highly recommend: http://jrmf.org/) I was really please that almost everyone enjoyed the festival and had a favorite problem they tried there.
I then warmed up again with an easy/medium Sudoku combo. Since this was our second time I had everyone think about what strategies they were using and share them about 10 minutes into the process. I had a few good suggestions including checking how a number in 2 columns and rows implied where it must be in the remaining one. I think I'd like to have the kids demo these further in front of the group next time we try the puzzle. Maybe some partials on the projector would work well.
For our main section I had the kids try out a practice test from the Purple Comet online contest.
http://purplecomet.org/home/home I just found out about this a few days ago and we're able to squeeze it in. So I postponed what I had planned to do and observed how well the kids can handle the sample problems. What's nice about them is that you'll have several minutes at least per problem and that they can be team solved. They also range nicely through most pre-algebra topics and had some good puzzles embedded in them. However, these are going to be hard for the kids based on the session. In practice they were able to solve 2-4 of them over 25 minutes working in groups of 2-3. And regrettably I didn't have time to go over any solutions as a whole. So for the real contest I'll make the groups larger 5-6 and talk about looking all the problems over and trying to do the easier ones first. I'm planning to frame this as a stretch for the kids where getting even a few correct is an accomplishment.
Parenthetically this session was a classic example of how when I plan I'm always worried that I won't fill the hour while in practice I find I usually could go one half to an hour longer. The sudoku by itself could fill an hour especially if I chose harder ones. And if I had enough time to review problems from the sample contest I could also have easily filled a large chunk of time.