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    Creative Problem-Solving Applied to Complex Puzzles at YCIS's Science and Mathematics Rush

    School News

    05 Jun, 2013

    10 : 00

    • Every year, teachers at YCIS Shanghai Century Park Campus organise a Science and Mathematics Rush to challenge students’ problem-solving capabilities, and to inspire their scientific minds. To add competitive flair to this year’s event, a House (team) competition, in the form of the TV show “The Amazing Race – China Rush”, was organised with the winning team earning points for their House. Each House in each year level was issued a passport to record the number of tasks completed. But the tasks to be completed were not so simple; there were mathematical mazes, molecule problems, and moments to conquer! When each task was completed, the team was given a stamp containing part of a secret code, and only when a team completed all of the tasks could they figure out the code. Even the code was a challenge – as it was created by the teachers using a collection of Greek symbols and mathematical numbers.

      Every task was pre-planned and designed by teachers to fit within the curriculum, and the levels of difficulty were scaled for different age groups. Much thought was put into the planning, such that every task involved both mind and body, required good communication, and could not be done by only one person – with the added pressure of competition from the other groups! The intent of making such complex, interactive problems was to provide a complete learning platform, rather than just a series of questions on paper.

      For the mathematics portion, there were a number of different types of challenging exercises. One exercise was "The Olympiad", where students were given five problems to solve in a set period of time. They had to ensure that all of their answers were correct before they were allowed to receive credit for this particular task, and the presence of the countdown timer compounded the sense of urgency for students to act quickly and accurately. Another challenge was a tangram puzzle requiring students to work quickly to try to piece together. Mr Mike Herd, Head of Mathematics at the Century Park Campus, explained that this exercise “was particularly interesting as students were able to think laterally and creatively at the same time. The learning is also directly applicable to their studies, as tangrams feature prominently in the KS3 curriculum.”

      One of the science tasks was a unique activity called “Balance This!” Students had to use their knowledge of moments to balance a range of weights, each spanning different distances. In total, there were 10 weights and 10 positions, but only two possible solutions! They also competed in the “Amino Acid Scramble”, which had students racing up and down the track to assemble specific proteins using only a code of DNA. This activity provided both physical exercise and an excellent way for students to try to work out a typically difficult concept, while relying on communication with their classmates!

      After the secret was finally de-coded, and Yellow House was crowned “Rush” Champion, Two Year 9 students, Nina and Melanie, summarised the day’s learning by saying, “Using knowledge and team spirit, we were able to solve the mysterious code, which was π (3.1415026). It was such a great day and very fun for all students involved!”