"STOP THAT ZOMBIE! is a truly "hands on" approach to working with addition and subtraction, with links to algebra, patterns and problem solving. The basic puzzle is simple: using the numbers 1- 6, distribute them around a triangle so that each side adds up to 9 (thus, trapping the zombie in his cage!) Where it gets really cool is this: you can arrange those same 6 numbers to add up to 10, 11, and 12 on each side.
But the fun doesn't end there: you can differentiate this by using the numbers 2 - 7, and each side adding up to either 12, 13, 14 or 15. In fact, you can use any set of 6 consecutive numbers and using the handy "Do It Yourself" sheet customize this for with ANY set of numbers you want. If you work with older students, you can use positive and negative numbers, fractions, decimals, even algebraic expressions.
I've done an unusual thing and recommended this for Kindergarten through 8th grade and this puzzle can deliver at all ages.
* Kindergarteners and first graders can work with the basic puzzle by using the cards which show the numbers 1 - 6 as "dots" - they can arrange the cards to add up on each side from 9 - 12. You can also use the numbers 0 - 5 for an easier puzzle, in which case the sides would add up to 8 - 11.
• First through third graders can use "special" numbers, like the odds (1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11) or the evens (0, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10) to figure out which solutions are possible and which are impossible.
• Third through 5th graders can look at the patterns in the solutions, which includes putting the three lowest numbers in the corners and three largest numbers on the sides to generate the smallest sum. They can use those findings to solve more difficult puzzles.
• 6th graders and older can represent the different numbers as algebraic expressions (x, x + 1, x + 2, etc.) to "balance" the 3 sides, and then enter different numbers to figure out what the smallest and largest solutions would be. They could also work with odd numbered patters (2x + 1, 2 x + 3, 2x + 5, etc.) or work with multiples (x, 5x, 10x, 15x, 20x, etc.) to see if the three sides could be "balanced."
I've actually had high school students write papers about the algebraic patterns that can be located inside the solution to this puzzle.
Included in this packet: the basic "zombie themed" puzzles in color as well as black and white. This packet also includes recording sheets (so you can laminate and use the puzzles over and over again), cut-out "zombie brains" with numbers on them, so the students can move the numbers around on the board until they get the correct answer.
There's also an extension where your students can record whether the numbers used on each side were on the "corners" or "interior." By doing this, you'll see a pattern that can help them predict how puzzles with larger numbers will work.
I've also included a page that clearly documents 11, yes, 11 different ways this activity could be differentiated starting in Kindergarten and going all the way up to high school. In fact, I've had high school students write papers about the algebra found in this problem.
I love using these puzzles with my kids; I bet you will too!
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