Sunday, February 01, 2009

Catching up with Think!: Coins

Think! challenge, Week 22: Clever Coin Stacking. Using 100 coins, build the widest possible structure that stands at least 1 inch tall, with as few coins as possible touching the table.

"I have to use all of the coins?" In a dismayed voice. Yes, darling, that's the challenge.

For this fine young gent, part of the challenge is thinking-through. He's a bright guy. Answers to problems often just pop into his head. The value of the Think! challenges for this young man is just as much in learning persistence and the value of making mistakes, in not finding the right answer immediately. Creative thinking isn't only flashes of brilliance, it's experimenting to find out what doesn't work and why so that one can try, try again. At least that's what I tell him.

You can see the point in his structure where he gave up on the "as few coins as possible touching the table" part. He got frustrated when his widening structure kept on collapsing, so he built more pillars. And that's okay, it's his structure. I encouraged and made suggestions during the building, and we discussed following the guidelines for the challenge afterward. Here lies my ongoing Think! challenge: To encourage the fine young gents to persist and to follow the directions without killing the creativity or the fun. How do I help them to persist in the face of frustration, to look for solutions without leading them to my answers, help them to follow the rules without feeling constrained by them?

The final structure measured 9 1/2 inches wide. He was happy with his finished product:

The younger gents chose not to participate in the challenge. But they still enjoy the Think! challenges, because they're given materials for building or creating that they might not have thought of on their own. Kindergarten gent started by building a tall tower of pennies, then got sidetracked by sorting and counting the coins. While his brother built a coin bridge, I played a coin counting game with this fine young gent: Can you find three coins that add to thirty-six cents? How many different ways can you make forty cents?

The youngest gent just wanted to stack coins and knock them over. He played with the coins for quite a time after his brothers had returned to their regular schoolwork. For this fine young gentleman, one of my favorite things about the Think! challenges is that the unusual materials keep him happily occupied and challenge him to experiment with new materials.

This week's Think! challenge: Silverware
We can't wait to try this one!

1 comment:

Faith said...

What a neat idea ... I never would have thought of this. I am going to have to try this with my kids - I think eldest and middle son could spend a rainy afternoon on this one!