Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Perplexing Puzzles - 4/30/14

Today's freebie is for the little guys!  It's a new Cub Corner set All About Snakes!

The Puzzle Den: Cub Corner #10

There are 3 puzzles in this pack.  One maze, one path follower, and one crypto-riddle!  I hope your younger solvers enjoy these puzzles (and the cute snakes!)

Just click on the picture above to download the puzzles from Google Drive.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ivan's Hinge from Fat Brain Toys

Today's Puzzle in the Spotlight in Ivan's Hinge from Fat Brain Toys!

Ivan's Hinge

Ivan's Hinge is a folding puzzle.  It comes with the puzzle (it's one piece) and 56 challenges.  No answers, no handy carrying case.  (I have the cards and puzzle stored in a ziploc baggy...those cards would get lost pretty least in my house!)

It does come with a card to explain how it works.  On the back is a diagram to show you how to fold the Hinge to create a square shape.  This is REALLY useful!  Practice making a square until you're comfortable with it.  The key to solving any of the challenges is first learning how to make the required shape!

Here is a nice closeup of the Hinge.  It has 16 triangles attached together with nifty hinges that can bend forwards and backwards.  Just playing with the Hinge is very satisfying, especially if you're one of those who like to fiddle with things.  My son picks this up while watching TV all the time!

So here's one of the square challenges solved.  I found that it was actually easier to create a square and then search through the deck of challenges and see if I'd matched any of them! But that's cheating isn't it?!

Here's another shape you'll need to learn how to make.  This one's not too hard to fold once you know how to make the square.  But here's a hint that did help me to solve some of the challenges.  If you look closely at the triangles in the Hinge, you will notice that half of them have 2 colors!  For some reason, I didn't notice this at first.  If you check out the Hinge, you will see that one half of the triangles are a solid color and the other half have two colors.  And there are 4 blue/red triangles and 4 orange/red triangles.  So when you're looking at a challenge card, see if you can figure out where you will need a half and half triangle and start there.  Then you only have 4 possibilities for that spot, but don't forget that you can fold left and you can fold right!

This "L" shape is harder to figure out, but you can get there!  Honestly, I think making the required shape successfully, regardless of the arrangement of the colors, is a real win!  These challenges are tough!

Here's the "T" shape.  I did finally manage to figure out how to fold one of these, but I never got ANY of those challenges solved.

Wikipedia: Tetrominoes

The last shape is a "Z" shape (see the tetromino shapes above).  I never did figure out how to fold that one!  Anybody have any hints for me??

Final thoughts:  This is one tough puzzle!  You can work your way to a solution just by starting with one triangle, folding, failing, and moving on to the next triangle, but don't loose track of which triangle you started with!  And don't forget to fold left and fold right!  Even though there is a high level of frustration involved with working with this puzzle, it is still satisfying to learn how to fold the shapes, and it is really fun to play with!

Unhinged from ThinkFun

Another puzzle that is very similar to Ivan's Hinge is Unhinged from ThinkFun.  If you enjoy Ivan's Hinge, you'll also like Unhinged!  I have a review of Unhinged here.  Do you know of any other hinge-style puzzles?

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Five on Friday

1)  We had 2 holidays to celebrate this past week.  The first one was Easter, and we had a good time decorating eggs and putting ears on the kitty!

2)  The second holiday was Jack's Birthday!  This was a big deal...he turned 13 this year!  This is a picture of him decorating his brownie cake with a Pikachu.  He loves those Pokemon!  We had some Pokemon party decor and a balloon bouquet too!  Jack's Grandma J and his friend Alex joined the party via Skype.  It was chaotic fun!  We are so glad that technology allows us to remain so close to our family and friends!

3)  I thought I'd play around with collages, instead of littering my blog with tons of photos.  Here is our cat Deb.  She loves a good pillow!  She's not overly fond of just sitting on a plain lap, but if you put a pillow on it, she'll jump right up!  She's also pretty easy going.  Someone (Ginny) tossed the pillow on top of Deb the other day, and she didn't seem at all put out.  In fact, she actually slept there, under the pillow, for another hour!  She also allows us to crochet kitty bonnets for her and make her wear them!  (That's really a small doily I'm working on.)

4)  Gin finished book 1 of the School of Good and Evil and now is onto book 2, A World Without Princes.  She was very happy to find out that book 2 was just released a couple weeks ago, so she can dig right in!  Jack is reading book 6 of Wereworld.  He has enjoyed this series.  Our nightly read aloud is currently Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  We started reading this series quite a bit back (while we were still living in Fayetteville) and we are still going strong!  We are all Harry Potter fans here!  I am currently reading two books, both sci-fi.  I started reading Pastwatch on my husband's recommendation and then CJ Cherryh's new book, Peacemaker, came out and I couldn't help but start it too!  You can probably tell, we are all sci-fi/fantasy fans here!

5)  Homeschool Related Stuff:  We've been reading short stories this year for Reading Class.  We started off with something a bit scholarly, the Little Worlds collection.  We finished this just a couple weeks ago, and I have to report that we did not especially enjoy the experience.  It is put together for middle school students, and Jack is definitely middle school, while Ginny's just about there.  I remember reading some of these stories when I was in school too.  I liked a couple of them.  But the problem for Jack and Ginny was that they really couldn't relate to a lot of the stories.  Many of them take place in different eras and people just had different concerns in those times.  It certainly does present a learning opportunity, but it does not contribute to building a love or appreciation of this literary form.  Bottom line is, I really think they could have picked some better stories.  Anyhow, we also picked this Holt Anthology to read.  It is a companion book to our Science textbook, so it seemed a good choice.  We have read several stories in it now, and really, they are far more engaging!  Starting off with stories like "The Homesick Chicken" and "They're Made out of Meat!" is a great way to keep kids wanting to read more!  I happen to enjoy this genre, so that might be influencing my opinion, but I think this is a great collection!

That's our week in a nutshell!

Weekly Wrap-up

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Perplexing Puzzles 4/23/14

Addition Pyramid 2 from The Puzzle Den

Today's free puzzle is another Addition Pyramid! These are great for practicing the addition facts and using some of those problem solving skills.  A little trivia has been added in to make the answers more meaningful!

You can find another Addition Pyramid puzzle page here.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Giveaway from Fishy's Teacher Shop


TpT Seller Fishy's Teacher Shop is having a 1000 follower giveaway! I've donated my Crypto-Animals Double Digit Addition and Subtraction pack to her giveaway. You can find it in the 2nd-3rd grade Math and Science pack!


Just click on either picture above and it will take you to Fishy's Teacher Shop Teacher Times Two blog where you can enter to win a bunch of different collections of goodies at several grade ranges.

Good luck!

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Sunday Sale at TpT

The Puzzle Den Store

A whole bunch of sellers (me included) are having an Easter Sale on Easter Sunday! Everything in my store will be 20%!  So if you need some resources to help you finish off the school year, tomorrow might be a good day to stock up on supplies!

Teaching Momster is hosting a linky party listing many of the stores that are participating in the sale.  Click here to see the list!

And remember, TpT isn't just for teachers.  Many of the products available (both free and paid) are great for parents and homeschoolers too!  Sales days are always the best days to try out something new!

Happy Easter to you and your little bunnies!

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Five on Friday

1.  Jack has been spending some of his free time lately reading this Wilderness Survival guide that he found on our bookshelves.

Wilderness Survival

He decided that it'd be really fun if we tried to practice some survival skills in the woods.  I'm not sure I agreed on the "fun" part, and I really have no skills in that area, but it was a good excuse to go out on a hike.  Everyone packed a backpack with essentials (water, snacks, binoculars, nature identification guides, multi-tools, etc) and off we went!  There are some very nice woods surrounding our neighborhood and we ended up doing a two mile hike.  Half way through, we found a nice spot to build a survival fort (see top photo).  That's what Jack called it anyway!  We balanced some broken tree limbs together into a teepee type shape, then topped that with pine needles.  There are tons of broken tree limbs left over from the ice storm we had this past winter, so we had plenty to work with. We spent a good 2 hours out in the woods that day, and it did end up being fun!

Here are the kids looking at the part of the trail that has washed away!  WOW! 

2.  This is Ginny at the Underwater Egg Hunt.  It turned out to be more of a Floating-on-the-Water Egg Hunt, but I think they still enjoyed it.  (Plastic eggs don't sink!)

3.  To get ready for Easter, we made some egg rockets.  Ginny made a kitty one, and Jack made one with a hanging basket for a lego dude.

If you want to make some egg rockets of your own, check out the pin below...

Egg Rockets

4.  We were feeling very fort-y this week, so we also built a soft house in our living room.  That's what we've been calling an indoor fort ever since we read the book "Soft House" by Jane Yolen when the kids were little.  (It's a lovely book, by the way!)

Even big kids like forts!  We lived in that thing for two days...even ate some meals in there and watched some TV.  (It's always good to build the TV into the soft house!)

So this is how big boys spend their time in a soft house.

And this is how big girls enjoy a soft house!  (She's reading "The School of Good and Evil" and tells me that it's probably the best book she's ever read, although the beginning was a little slow.)

Make Raspberry Pi Kit

5.  My dad's birthday was on the 7th.  He turned REALLY old this year.  So we got him a Raspberry Pi to celebrate!  (The kids were really confused when I told them what I got Gramps for his birthday.  They were like "Does he like raspberries?" lol)  We bought the kit version from the Maker Shed (love that store!)  And below you can see my dad's complete pi!  I think he's been having a lot of fun with it.  Happy Birthday Dad!

Hope everyone had a good week!  We had a bunch of tests this week and the kids aced them all!  So definitely a fine week for us!

Weekly Wrap-Up

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Stenzzles from ThinkFun

ThinkFun Stenzzles: Tropical Collection

Today's puzzle review is of Stenzzles! I've had my eye on these for a couple months now at B&N (that's my favorite hang-out!)  I finally bought one today, and I'm glad I did!  It is a simple puzzle, but definitely offers a bit of a challenge.

Stenzzles comes with 8 different colored stencils, an instruction guide with challenges and solutions, and a display stand.  You can use the stand to display your completed puzzles for everyone to admire!

The idea behind Stenzzles is to layer each of 8 stencil pieces one behind the other in some particular order.  Each stencil has its own challenge in which it is featured as the top layer.

Some solving tips:  To figure out which stencil comes next, look at the next most dominant color.  It's also useful to look from the edges inward.

What I like about this puzzle is that it's quick to solve so that it can capture and hold someone with a short attention span just long enough to get the job done.  Especially if they like to complete all the challenges in one sitting, as there are only 8.

I think this puzzle might be slightly better if the stencils were made out of plastic of some kind.  Of course, then it wouldn't be biodegradable, and would probably be more expensive.  So just be careful with this puzzle.  If you've got expressive kids, the smaller edges and bits of the stencils could take a beating.  They're made of thick cardboard, but they are not indestructible.

Another interesting aspect of this puzzle is that you can make your own challenges.  Each stencil can be rotated, flipped, and layered in many different ways.  If you or your kids decide to create a new challenge, take a picture of it.  The photo can then be used as the model, and the person who attempts to recreate your challenge can look at that while they work.

I bought the Tropical Collection.  But ThinkFun also makes a Sports Collection and a Dog Collection.  If you had all three collections, you'd have 24 stencils.  You could then mix and match from the different sets and make a TON of crazy layering stencil challenges!

For even more fun, you and yours could make up a set of your own stencils to play around with.  You might need to use an exacto knife and some thick paper to cut the stencils nicely (so be careful!), but you could go completely wild imagining fun things to stencil and layer!

(Did you notice my cat in the top two photos?!)

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