Increasing Critical Thinking Skills in Math

It’s important that we are building critical thinking skills in math. Too often these are overlooked or assumed that students do it because they have to problem solve sometimes. While that does help build the all-important critical thinking skills, we need to make sure we are also finding ways to purposely bring it into instruction.

One such way that I like to implement critical thinking skills in my math class is through a game called Puzzlers. Recently I discussed why you should use games in the classroom and this one is no exception. Games go beyond just having fun and “entertaining” students. They aren’t just fillers.

Building Critical Thinking Skills with the Puzzler Game

The puzzler game is a game that not only increases critical thinking skills, but it also practices both fact fluency and the order of operations!

In the puzzler game, students are given a target number. This happens by rolling a die or dice, but it can also be any chosen number between 1 and 36. For instance, I have randomly chosen the date before.

Next, students are provided with a 3×3 grid of the numbers 1 through 9 mixed up. (See the image below.)

Once students have their target number and a mixed up grid of the numbers 1-9, they are ready to begin. This is where the critical thinking skills will come in.

Now, students will need to come up with a way to use ONLY three numbers (in a row, diagonally, or in a column) to get that target number. They will do this by creating equations that total the target number. They can add, subtract, multiply, divide, or even come up with a combination of them. If needed, they can use parentheses. This is where knowing the order of operations is necessary!

For instance, let’s take the example above with the 9 numbers on the sticky notes. Let’s say that the target number was 18. The student could create these two equations to come up with the solution of the target number 18:

• (9 x 6) ÷ 3
• (9 + 8) – 1

Here’s an example of a puzzler card with multiple solutions:

What I love about this puzzler game is the variety of ways it can be used to help build critical thinking skills! For instance, students could list all of the equations, or solutions, to get the target number:

or go through multiple cards trying to list as many solutions as they can:

Or they could skip rolling the dice altogether and see how many solutions they can find for the target numbers one through ten. Why not even through in zero?!

Students love this game and it’s perfect for independent work, early finishers, small groups, and even enrichment. It’s differentiated and there are cards that are strictly for adding and subtracting for students who can’t multiply yet.

You don’t have to purchase my puzzler resource to play this critical thinking skills builder! You can easily create it in your classroom as a bulletin board and change out the numbers each day!

If you want to save some time, grab the extra differentiated materials, and the specifics, head to my store now to purchase it! It’s definitely worth it!

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