PROBLEM SOLVING: Monkey Squares (Latin Squares)
Use Monkey Squares
to teach your students problem solving while disguising it as lots of fun. Monkey Squares
are square arrays of n x n rows and columns in which n items fill the cells so that no item is used more than once in each row and column. Known as Latin Squares in mathematics, they are used for statistical analysis. If they seem familiar, they should; Sudoku is a 9 x 9 Latin Square.
Begin by demonstrating how a 3 x 3 array works. Cut apart the 6 x 6 colored array of tiles found at the end of this unit. Using 3 each of 3 colors, place them on the 3 x 3 array in standardized form; i.e. both the 1st row and 1st column display the colors in the same order.
Distribute a Monkey Squares
4 x 4 board to each student with 4 tiles each of 4 colors. Ask them to place their tiles on the board without repeating a color in any row or column. Be prepared! One of your students is bound to discover that making diagonal stripes will allow him/her to solve the Monkey Square
with ease. Do not let them stop with that realization. For a 3 x 3 array, there are 12 possible solutions. Dare them to find all 12. For a 4 x 4 array, there are 576 permutations!! Now that's a challenge any bright, gifted, and/or talented students should love.
As a teacher who is dedicated to differentiated instruction, I have used Monkey Squares
successfully with 1st through 5th graders. They are perfect for teaching deductive reasoning and promoting stamina. You could use Monkey Squares
as a math center or sponge activity. They are fantastic for fast finishers!
If your students love them as much as mine do, the next logical step is to introduce Sudoku. It's certainly appropriate for 3rd - 5th graders. Need help? Look for my power point product, How to Play Sudoku
Your students may enjoy these editions of Latin Squares as well:
• Patriotic Squares
• Pumpkin Squares
• Reindeer Squares
• Turkey Squares
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