Mathemagic: Exploring Sudoku and Other Magic Squares

Hello everyone! Today we are collaborating with Judee Shipman from Education.com to show you an interesting and creative math-activity to use in class. Enjoy!

Grade Level: 6th & up; 

Objective: This activity explores the properties and uses of “magic squares.” The purpose of this activity is for pupils to experiment with magic square design while also finding more about the history of magic squares and their different uses. 

Questions: At the end of the lesson pupils should be able to answer the following questions. 

  1. What is the history of magic squares?
  2. What are their applications, other than Sudoku puzzles?

Research: Before starting any type of activity with your pupils, you need to research the topics for yourself. From my previous experience, you don’t have to stress too much if you don’t know everything. As a change, it is a great experience to learn something new from the pupils.

A magic square is a mathematical construct in which symbols (usually numbers) are arranged in a square, so that the numbers in all rows, columns and diagonals add up to the same amount. No symbol can appear more than once in any row, column or diagonal. Magic squares have been known to mankind for thousands of years. Artists, architects and designers have been fascinated by this mathematical construction (a good example is Albrecht Dürer and his painting Melencolia I). In contemporary culture, they most commonly appear in the form of the ever-so popular puzzles known as Sudoku.

Materials:

  1. Computer with Internet access;
  2. Color printer;
  3. Digital camera or phone (just in case you want to take some photos of your lovely pupils and their work);

  4. Typical office/hobby/hardware/craft supplies (paper, poster board, glue,etc);

All materials can be found in your home, at school or at local stores.

Lesson/ Activity:

  • Start by talking a little about magic squares, show them some images or a short video. This is the perfect time to talk about other people (not mathematicians) that have worked with them (example: Albrecht Dürer and his painting Melencolia I).

  • Next step is to actually give them some examples of magic squares that they can work with. Also, it is a good time to talk about Sudoku and give them some examples to try. Depending how much time you have, you could focus more on this or just go over the examples very quickly with them. At this point, use your flexibility (school timeline) to see if you can spend more time focusing on this. Generally, this type of activity helps pupils with basic operations; it develops their understanding of numbers and problem solving.

  • Ask the pupils to create their own magic squares. Encourage them to use colors, shapes, letters, emoji (anything else, but not numbers). Show them an example, if they are struggling. The best thing for this activity (it helps with time management) is to have templates ready for those pupils that might struggle, or that need a little impulse.

  • After the pupils have created their own magic squares, you need to find a way to check them. One idea would be to check them yourself after school and give the pupils feedback next day. Otherwise, you could ask the pupils to swap their work and complete a short feedback form for the magic square in front of them.

What else can you do with this activity?

  • If you have taken photos of pupils’ work and their final pieces, you can create a science fair display (a good focus on STEM subjects).

  • You could create great posters with their work.
  • Be creative, let us know what else you have in mind. We would love to see/read about your ideas.

Further reading:

  1. Wikipedia topic: Magic Square
  2. About magic squares
  3. Internet searches of your choosing. Search words or terms listed here, or make up your own phrases. Click on any results you find interesting. Have fun surfing the net!

Hope you enjoyed this collaboration. Let me know if you would like to see more posts like this. It was a pleasure working with them and I enjoyed doing this type of content for you. Let me know in the comment bellow what other things you would like to see. Have a great day. You can find me on Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  Twitter   and  Instagram. I will try to post there as often as possible.

For more fun with math, go to Education.com!

Lots of love and don’t forget that maths is everywhere! Enjoy!

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