Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Different Kind of Mystery Picture [Part 1]

Mystery pictures are used for a variety of educational purposes from learning math facts to sight words to geometric shapes. Typically they are based on a 100s or 120s chart and require students to color in the squares or rectangles according to a list of clues. Very useful, but there are a couple of things that kind of bug me about them. First, the image has numbers or words all over it…which is the point, to familiarize kids with those particular concepts. The other issue for me is that the image is blocky, like an enlargement of pixels on a computer screen.

So I've been playing around with a different approach…instead of numbers or other thingies in the squares, how about labeling the rows and columns? It's a kind of simplified coordinate graph as used in the game Battleship.
To find a particular square's "address," the clues can indicate C4, F8, and so on. The next obstacle is the blocky image. I tried drawing a picture in a grid, similar to an art project where you enlarge an image by drawing what's in each square. But drawing curved and other arbitrary lines seemed too difficult for my purposes. It's a puzzle, not an exercise in duplicating an image, per se.

What about straight lines instead? Here is the same image, sans curves:
And not only are the lines straight, they start and stop at key points in the square, such as the corner, midpoint of an edge, or center point (with a few exceptions.) It's definitely easier to draw. So, each clue reveals the coordinates plus has a little square with one or more lines in it for kids to draw on their blank grid.
Since this approach seemed workable, I went ahead and designed the first puzzle. The clues are based on numbers in expanded form, part of learning about place value. Here's a link to the freebie, "It's a Fluke!" (Get it…whale tail…flukes?) Another advantage is that once the picture is drawn, the kiddos can color it any way they like, so each picture will be different.
There may be similar mystery picture puzzles out there in Internetland…in any case, this type is intriguing to me because of the creative options with the image. It will be interesting to see if teachers find these to be useful and fun for students. "Fluke" has had some positive feedback already, so we shall see!

This article is getting long, so I'll post a part 2 soon. Update: Here is the link to Part 2. Thanks for reading!

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