Learning Maths through Problem Solving

2D has been developing our numeracy skills through the big idea of power. We have been exploring the power of shapes while immersing ourselves in real-life problem solving.

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We were faced with a challenge of building the strongest and largest beehive using different resources including toothpicks, marshmallows, clays, and straws. We were grouped into teams and had to collaborate to complete this mission. Each resource was assigned a value and we only had $100 to spend. It was a huge challenge for us but we were confident we could tackle the problem if we work as a team.

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This was a great opportunity for us to apply our problem solving strategies and steps that we have been developing throughout the year, in an authentic context. The task was designed so that every student in the team had an important role to play and demanded higher-order thinking.

Each material was assigned a value that allowed Grade 2s to practice their number fluency while exploring the concept of money. Cents were eliminated at the beginning to avoid confusion with decimals. The materials were assigned with numbers that students were able to skip count in such as 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10. This allowed multiple entry points for all levels of learners: Students were able to apply skip counting as well as the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division).

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At the start, students had to carefully plan which shape they will choose to build a beehive. The shapes chosen by the students included square, rectangle, triangle, pentagon, and hexagon. By physically building and connecting them using concrete materials such as toothpicks and clays, students consolidated their understanding their properties by manipulating the edges and vertices (corners).

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At the end of the task, students were able to arrive at the understanding of why hexagon is the most powerful shape to be used as beehives: Hexagon yields the largest possible space for storing their nectar, requires the least amount of resources to build yet happens to be the strongest structure that can be packed tightly without leaving gaps in between.

Honeybees are excellent mathematicians who know how to perfect their architectural designs. These honeybees developed this mathematical skill through long periods of trial and error by facing challenging problems and applying their strategies.


Most of all, it was difficult to bring the activity to an end as students were highly absorbed in maths disguised as play. It was only during the reflection time when students realised the amount of maths they were doing.

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