Want to encourage meaningful math talk and problem solving? Try these playful problem solving challenges based on the book The Grapes of Math by Greg Tang!
One of my favorite books is the New York Times Bestseller, The Grapes Of Math by Greg Tang. This hilarious and interactive tale invites students to think outside the box to tackle wacky math riddles. Each challenge encourages new ways to see quantities and count objects. It invites kids to think and ask, “How else can I find the total?” or “What is the most efficient way to count or add or multiply?” These are the kinds of problem solving challenges that will develop and deepen number sense in kids. So if you’re excited to dig in, grab a copy of the book and then extend the challenge with these additional problem solving pages!
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Problem Solving Challenges for Kids:
Although I designed these challenges to be used along with the book, The Grapes of Math, you could use them independently. The key is to encourage creative problem solving and challenge kids to find another way to see the images.
Each page presents a math problem that requires addition. Each could be solved simply by counting the objects one by one, but the point of each puzzle is to try and find a way to solve the problem quicker and easier.
Greg Tang’s picture book, The Grapes of Math, uses silly rhymes and engaging illustrations to help kids learn several helpful problem solving strategies, such as making ten to add more efficiently, looking for groups of numbers to skip count, subtracting to add, and more!
As Greg Tang explains in his introduction,
“The Grapes of Math teaches four important lessons in problem solving. The first is to be open minded. Children will learn to look beyond the obvious in search of smarter solutions. Second, they are encouraged to think strategically by finding convenient sums that make adding easier. Third, kids are taught to save time by using a variety of skills when solving problems, such as subtracting to add. Finally, children learn to organize information by identifying patterns and symmetries.”
This book is great for visual learners, or for students who like a challenge. Even after finding the right answer, I would encourage you to ask your child (or student) how they arrived at their answer (try to figure out how they saw the picture) and then ask them to figure out another way to solve it. This is a great way to have mathematical discussions and get kids used to explaining their thinking.
And if your kids love The Grapes Of Math as much as we do, they won’t want to stop once the book is finished! So I’ve created some problem solving challenges with addition questions similar to the ones in the book!
Want to learn more about engaging students through meaningful problem solving? Check out my professional development course, Problem Solved: Teaching Math through Problem Solving.
This free download includes 8 pages of unique challenges, as well as an answer key for each page. And although it does not include cute rhymes with helpful hints, hopefully your kids will have some good ideas and be ready to tackle these on their own after working through The Grapes Of Math!
And because these will be printouts that your kids can have (rather than a picture book), I hope you will encourage them to write on each page! It’s often helpful to circle groups of five or ten, or to circle the objects to subtract.
Just be sure they are using pencil, so when you ask them to solve another way, they can erase and start again! 😉
I hope this proves to be a great source of FUN and engaging math learning, and gets your kids excited about exploring new problem solving strategies!
If you’re looking for a similar challenge for younger kids, I recommend starting with dot card visuals and asking “how many?”
And if your kids enjoy this book and the practice pages, be sure to check out some of Greg Tang’s other books:
Math-terpieces: The Art of Problem-Solving (I especially love this one, because I love art history!)
Math Potatoes: Mind-stretching Brain Food (a little more challenging than The Grapes of Math)
And if you want to see this kind of problem solving play out with a more challenging question, check out this video of 6 year old Autumn solving a finite series problem!
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