Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Morning Routine with Math

This is a bit different than some of the other posts in this blog, and it might not be for everyone! My usual routine in the morning is to drink my coffee (of course), read articles and do some KenKen on the NY Times website. For those of you who have never done a KenKen puzzle, it's a puzzle that calls on your skills with the basic operations, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Numbers cannot repeat in rows or columns, and you must complete whatever arithmetic lies in the bolded boxes.

Anyway, I thought one day that it'd be a good idea to share part of the routine with my students. To some, it was boring and they didn't care much for it. One morning I would teach the class how to complete a KenKen puzzle, and as they walk in to class every day I would have printed copies of a daily KenKen puzzle printed from the NY Times website. It wasn't mandatory, but students knew that if they sat down they should have something to work on or read. It got more and more popular and students would end up racing each other (and me, foolishly..ha). I feel this is a good way to keep the mind sharp and wakes people up in the morning. I've done this routine with Science classes as well! It pushes students to practice their basic operations and can really challenge them if they choose to do a 6x6 medium or hard puzzle. I recommend it to anyone who's never done it! The link is in the first paragraph. Cheers!


  1. Hello,
    Thanks for sharing. I have never heard of KenKen. But I do like that it can be used every morning to wake students up and get their brain going. It is a little different then a traditional classroom in which students would walk in and write in their journals or get something to read. I am going to try one of these tomorrow morning myself. I am teaching at an elementary level right now math and science. What is the age appropriate for this puzzle.

    1. Hey Abdul,

      It's a great way to get the mind working early in the morning. I know when I pair KenKen with coffee, I'm usually good to go! As for the appropriate level, I'd say the 4x4 easy should be okay for grades 7/8. I taught grade 10 math, and it took students a good 15-20 minutes to complete the 6x6 easy (with some hints). I've also finished classes off with KenKen by displaying it on the projector and helping students. I've found with students (and even with myself) that they get quicker with their operations and tend to be sharper and participate more in class.

  2. I just tried some KenKen puzzles with coffee this morning. It's new and interesting! I will print a few and carry them with me today. It's a good puzzle including four different operations and perfect for training students' mental math skills. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi Shadi,

    Sounds good, Ill have to try it. Reminds me of when I used Sudokus for students to work on before the bell and after they complete their work.

    You mentioned they raced each other and it increased interest, just wondering if anybody else has suggestions as to other motivating strategies here? A couple I use for things like this where you don't give marks out but want them to complete is barter for computer time. So if a particular finishes x, then he can do y. Public praise works well for one of my girls, as long I mention how good she's doing, she keeps going!

    1. Hello hello,

      Sudoku and KenKen work the same way in my opinion. I do like KenKen a bit more because of the operations that are practiced, whereas Sudoku only challenges students on placement of numbers. One strategy I used to increase participation in summer school is giving free time to students who try the puzzle and beat me in the "race". If every student participates and completes the puzzle, and only one student beats my time, everyone gets 5-10 minutes of free time at the end of the day. Granted, summer school was 6.5 hours of the same course in 95 degree weather, but I feel something along those lines would work during mainstream schooling.

      Thanks for the comment Mr. B.

    2. Hi Shadi,

      I'm happy to hear you say you liked in more in comparison, I will have to give it a try now, thanks!
      Oh and I hate the idea of free time but they waste so much time anyway that if you can make a deal with some that has a mutual benefit, I also think it should be used as a bargaining chip! (don't forget, I'm working on a reserve in a northern community and at least 10% do pretty much nothing all day so....what ever works!)

  4. Hi Shadi,

    I have never heard of KenKen before either but it definitely sounds interesting. I believe that students should have some sort of morning activity to get them thinking or to develop their problem solving skills. I also believe that students can also develop their critical thinking skills with such puzzles. Thank you for sharing this resource, it something I will definitely consider using.