Middle school years are full of new happenings and learnings. Children learn new and exciting things daily that push their limits to excel in everything taught to them. The zeal to prove oneself is at its peak during these years. However, if kids are not clear with their fundamentals during these years, they are likely to face obstacles to advanced learning.
Mathematics is one of those subjects that requires a solid foundation of basic concepts to further build and learn advanced concepts. To stimulate and evaluate the mental math skills of middle schoolers, in this post, we have covered some math challenges that are brain-stimulating, cognitively enriched, and can help children push their limits to unlock their true potential.
These math challenges can encourage kids to refine and practice mathematical concepts and strengthen their knowledge.
Math challenges for middle school kids
What’s better than math challenges, understanding complex mathematical concepts, and refining skills and knowledge? In this section, we have explored some math challenges for middle school children to enrich their subject knowledge.
1. Magic squares
A challenging math problem can make you pull your hair in frustration or sigh in relief when it cracks. Magic squares are one of those problems that typically impact middle schoolers in a similar way. The original magic squares puzzle is a square grid-based puzzle, where 3 × 3 is the easiest grid, and the complexity keeps on increasing.
- Identify the ‘magic number’, the designated total of all rows, columns, and a diagonal in the magic squares.
- Magic numbers can be found using a formula n(n2+1)/2, where n= square of order. For instance, the 3 × 3 matrix will have n=3, a 4 × 4 matrix will have n=4, and so on.
- You can only add positive integers from 1 to 9 in the grid to get the total.
- Ensure no number is repeated in a row, column, or diagonal; the sum of all these should equal the obtained magic number.
A perfect activity that tests and improves kids’ analytical and logical thinking and makes them brainstorm. Magic squares can be modified in several ways. For instance, instead of a matrix, let’s have a star-shaped figure where you can add a number to every side of the star, and the total should be equal for every side.
2. Fibonacci Sequence puzzle
A little challenge can go a long way. It can teach children problem-solving skills and how to brainstorm in different circumstances to find their way. The Fibonacci sequence puzzle is a fun yet challenging puzzle tool that wonderfully combines mathematical skills with logical and critical thinking. The puzzle will also deal with some crucial math concepts that are significant in middle school years.
- The Fibonacci sequence puzzle is a number puzzle that relies on addition and understanding patterns
- Fibonacci sequence puzzles involve adding two initial numbers to get the third number, then adding the second and third numbers to get the fourth number, and so on.
- For instance, if the sequence begins with 3 and 4, the next number will be 7, then 11, and 18, and so on.
- Children have to fill in all the blanks present in the sequence and complete the puzzle.
- In some sequences, only initial numbers are given to get you started, whereas in some puzzles certain numbers in the middle of the puzzle are already mentioned. They will help you assess if you are on the right path or not.
It is an exciting way to challenge kids’ mathematical skills and help them build crucial math skills required for successfully completing middle school years.
3. Tangram puzzles
Tangram puzzles are a sound tool to work with geometric shapes, manipulate them, and simultaneously improve kids’ visual and spatial reasoning. The original tangram puzzles involve seven pieces, called ‘tans’, that combine to form different shapes. It is the easiest of the Tangram puzzles, however, more complex tangram puzzles, games, and related activities can be used for middle schoolers to enhance their spatial awareness and problem-solving skills.
- Using a DIY Tangram, create some attractive and colorful tan pieces for kids to play with this puzzle. Alternatively, you can use a real tangram puzzle, if accessible.
- Provide the pieces to the kids and let them inspect them for a few minutes.
- Instruct the children to make as many figures as possible with those pieces,
- Provide them a target of, let’s say, 10 figures.
- Let the kids study, manipulate, and interpret different shapes and understand the core of geometry.
It is a wonderful tool at educator’s disposal to improve geometry learning among kids and teach them its real-life application.
4. Kenken puzzle
Suppose you are looking for something that will bring a spark to regular arithmetic operations and prepare kids for challenging concepts that require basic arithmetic operations. In that case, the Kenken puzzle is your go-to tool. Kenken puzzle is a grid-based puzzle with several ‘cage-cubes’ in it. Each cage cube has a number and arithmetic operation given to get you started.
- Identify the grid pattern. Let’s say it is a 3× 3 grid, so you can only add 1, 2, and 3 in your grid to complete it.
- There should be no repeated digit in any row or column.
- Cages are marked with dark lines in Kenken puzzles and present the important clues in decoding the puzzle.
- The clues in the grid will guide how to move forward and solve the puzzle. Based on those clues fill in the required numbers and solve the puzzle.
Kenken puzzles teach children deductive reasoning, problem-solving, and abstract skills required in math, which is a great approach to dealing with advanced math concepts.
5. Math Scavenger Hunt
A math scavenger hunt is an exciting activity to help children practice and overcome challenging math problems. It is a fun and thrilling activity that will keep children on their toes with excitement and keep them active while solving math problems.
- Prepare some math clues and write them on a paper.
- Divide the children into a group of 3-4 participants.
- The clues will lead to a reward, and the group who cracked all the clues first will receive the reward.
- Hide the clues in different locations and let one clue lead to another, and so on.
- Provide the groups with one common initial clue, let them solve it, find another clue, solve it, and so on, to hunt for their reward.
- Whichever group will crack the last clue first will win.
The activity will help educators address multiple math challenges for middle school in one go. It will also help children identify their math strengths and weaknesses that they can later work on.
6. Math Marathon
Marathons are a great way to keep children physically active. Similarly, a math marathon will keep children cognitively active. It is a systematically designed activity focusing on challenging math areas for middle school students and helps them overcome those challenges.
- Divide the children into a pair of two.
- Provide each child with stationary pens to solve the math problems.
- Decide the time for which the activity will continue, let’s say 20 minutes.
- Alternatively, educators have to create cards with math problems written on them.
- Keep the cards in a backward stack so players cannot see the questions.
- Instruct the players to take one card, solve it, take the other card, solve it, and keep going.
- Players have 20 minutes, and whichever pair will solve the maximum number of questions correctly will win.
It is a thrilling activity to build crucial math skills in children, such as critical thinking, logical thinking, etc., and learn math creatively.
Mathematical concepts widely rely on deductive reasoning and logical real-life application. Basic math phenomena such as manipulating one concept, relating it with another, comparing it, and whatnot are crucial mathematical functions. However, they can be tough when doing it in real life. To address these challenges, let children engage in cryptarithms puzzles and get hands-on experience with these crucial functions.
- The puzzle aims to replace alphabet letters with numerical digits and vice versa.
- In the puzzle, certain alphabets were provided, and numbers representing them. Not all numbers will be given since it’s for you to find out.
- Additionally, some additional numbers you can use in the spaces will be provided, and you cannot repeat any number.
- Students have to replace those alphabets with the correct numbers and find the answers by trial and error.
It is a challenging puzzle that requires persistence and deductive reasoning to get through it. The trial and error method is the key to solving these types of puzzles. However, with practice, your speed and accuracy in solving cryptarithms will enhance, along with your mathematical knowledge.
8. Newton’s Cross Math puzzle
Newton’s Cross Math puzzle is a wonderful brain-stimulating puzzle that focuses on addition and improves other related concepts such as algebra and fractions. The puzzle involves a cross with one large vertical line and a small horizontal line. Newton’s cross puzzle is a wonderful puzzle to keep children’s mathematical skills refined and growing.
- Along with the puzzle, certain numbers have to be used in the puzzle, and the total is provided.
- Children have to arrange the given numbers in a puzzle so that the total should be obtained upon adding numbers in both rows and columns.
- Ensure no number is repeated, or any extra numbers are used, and the sum of both columns and rows should be equal to the given total.
Newton’s Math puzzle comes in various complexity levels, and it is a great tool to refine mathematical skills and enhance critical thinking.
9. Sally’s Hexagon Puzzle
Sally’s Hexagon Puzzle brings a perfect level of complexity and brain-stimulating elements to enhance kids’ math skills and help them be logical in their thought patterns. The puzzle deals with arithmetic operations and can be useful in understanding and solving multiple advanced-level math concepts such as geometry, fractions, algebra, trigonometry, etc.
- It is a pyramid or a hexagon-shaped puzzle that has to be started from below.
- Children have to put numbers in the bottom row so that adding two numbers will make the number just above that row. Similarly, adding two numbers in the second last row should lead to a number for the row above that.
- Kids must fill in the numbers in the pyramid to the top.
Educators can enhance the puzzle’s complexity by increasing the pyramid’s size and adding units to the rows and columns.
10. Quadra’s Operation Puzzle
Another great puzzle to deal with math challenges in middle school in a fun and exciting way is the Quadras Operation puzzle. The puzzle deals with the rule of BODMAS and is an amazing tool to enhance middle school children’s algebraic and fraction skills.
- There are a series of numbers given with missing arithmetic signs in the series. The total of the number series is also provided.
- Children must put the correct arithmetic sign in the space between numbers in the series to get the mentioned total.
- Remember to use the BODMAS rule while putting the signs strictly.
It is a challenging puzzle but an important tool to prepare children for advanced math calculations and help them logically solve math problems.
Fun math brain teasers for middle schoolers
Math Brain Teaser is an awesome way to practice math and master it. Some amazing math brain teasers are-
A witty riddle is everyone’s favorite. It is a perfect way to test and activate your math cells. A riddle is any question or statement creatively designed with a hidden logic to test critical thinking skills and knowledge of the subject matter. Math riddles are generally based on real-life scenarios as they are easy to visualize and comprehend,
For instance, try finding the answer to this great math riddle: ‘How can you take two from five and still leave four?’ Think of it. [Hint: use alphabets]
2. Daily life situation questions
Daily life situation problems are a great way to help children relate what they witness in their everyday lives and compare it with their learning. Asking kids situational questions helps them comprehend them better and infer easily.
For instance, which mathematical operations are widely used when you go to the billing counter for your purchased stuff?
3. Age questions
Age questions are some of the trickiest math questions, as they can sometimes be confusing and contain lots of information to comprehend. A strong grasp of basic mathematical skills and a focused mind are the key requirements for solving age questions. Though, you can always practice them to get a hang of them.
Try solving the mentioned age questions and put your math skills to the test with it. What is Anaya’s present age? If after 20 years, her age will be ten times her age ten years back?
4. Math trivia
Math Trivia is a great tool for assessing a kid’s memory, testing their previously learned skills, and brushing up on their math facts. Math trivia is simple and fun math questions that rely on basic math knowledge and require almost no calculations.
For instance, what number doesn’t have its Roman Numerals? It’s time for you to put your math skills to the test and solve the math trivia.
5. Tricky questions
Math tricky questions are a great way to assess the mathematical skills and knowledge of students. Prepare your stationery for advanced-level, challenging math questions that confuse and frustrate you but excite you AT the same time.
To begin with, try solving the mentioned math tricky question. If 19 people left the room and 17 others entered the room, the room still has 63 people. How many people do you think were in the room to begin with?
The above-mentioned math challenges for middle school kids are a perfect amalgam of various skills required for understanding and strengthening math concepts in a fun and interesting way. These challenges will help you refine your math knowledge and form a strong base for solving advanced-level math concepts. Go on, pick your favorite challenge, and refine your subject knowledge and skills required to master that subject.
I am Sehjal Goel, a psychology student, and a writer. I am currently pursuing my Masters’s from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. Child psychology has always fascinated me and I have a deep interest in learning about disabilities in children and spreading awareness regarding the same. My other areas of interest are neuropsychology and cognitive psychology. Connect me on Linkedin