Using the Zin Obelisk to teach problem solving

The seventh graders just completed the "Zin Obelisk Challenge". The challenge is akin to putting together a motorcycle in a pitch black room. One feels the parts lying around but can't see the full picture.

The focus is on completing a challenge utilizing problem solving strategies and transferring these over to a new situation. Research I've read on developing mathematical strategies recommends teaching them explicitly and then immediately asking students to apply them to new contexts. The work that students produced was rad, and there were many different ways of organizing information in order to break down a problem.

I've used the Zin Obelisk for four years now, and feel that I've just polished it to near perfection. It is a great tool for organizing seemingly unorganized information and it correlates nicely with a number of our learning standards related to "mathematical reasoning"

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