Out of the Deep Freeze: Crack the Code Math Activities

Picture, if you will, that scene in You've Got Mail where Tom Hanks' character, Joe, is pacing back and forth past the door to the room where his computer screen is silently admonishing him for avoiding writing his response to Kathleen.  He knows he's got to answer, but the words just aren't there yet. One might say he's frozen in thought...

Well, the Deep Freeze is where my ideas have been sleeping for the last couple of months.  I'd walk past the room where my computer silently slept.  (I didn't make the mistake of turning it on...)  Evidently, I was perfectly fine recharging my creative battery.  (Actually, I was fine after I gave myself permission to be fine with it. Before that, I was feeling guilty doing nothing at all. )

I'm happy to say, my focus has finally returned!  (Whew! It's about time.) I'd like to introduce you to the first thing I've chipped out of that block of ice called brain rest.

When I was in the classroom, the biggest challenge I had was finding practice materials that had an element of fun to them.  It's a lot easier to get 6th graders to do homework, or any work for that matter, if there's a bit of play involved.  That's where my Crack the Code puzzles for math practice come in handy.

4 things I like about Crack the Code puzzles:
  • They're self correcting!  That's right. There's NO grading necessary.  If students do the math correctly, they're able to crack the code.  If the code doesn't make sense, it encourages them to take another look at their work.
  • Protractors aren't necessary to work the problems.  Each one comes with its own built-in, easy-to-read protractor. (The 3am Teacher has a lovely set of colored protractors in her store.)
  • Low prep! All you need is one copy per student.  
  • Great to leave with a sub!  This piggybacks on the low prep part.  You know those days when you wake up sick and you've got to throw some sub plans together? Well, Crack the Code is the answer to your prayers.  Students are engaged and you're giving some meaningful practice.  
Now, back to the big brain thaw... My latest creation is called Protractor Practice: Extend Your Thinking - Crack the Code.  This is actually the 4th puzzle in the Protractor Practice series, all of them with a slightly different focus.

Aside from simply solving the puzzle, this includes an optional discussion/activity recognizing the supplementary and complementary angles – great for review or as an introduction piece.  One puzzle has several supplementary angles built in, while the other includes a mix of complementary angles.

Another extension opportunity involves naming all 36 angles found on each of the protractors. (Only 21 are needed to crack either code.)  If ever there was a time for an organized list, this is it! But I let the kids decide how they want to attack that problem. Organized chaos ensues as the usual plan of attack.  It makes a for a nice discussion at the end.

Finally... just like at the end of the movie where Joe and Kathleen live happily ever after, I'm out of the Deep Freeze, once again tackling that long list of ideas just waiting to make their grand appearance on my computer screen!

I think Thomas Edison had the right idea when he said, "If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves."

I'm sure brain rest was an important part of that sentiment.


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