I’ve recently volunteered to be a part of the INFORMS K-12 Outreach Sub-Committee and the story behind this post has everything to do with my goals in helping the committee in its mission.
The 8-year-old daughter of one of my student’s significant other saw her doing homework and asked what it was. My student responded “optimization,” to which the 8yo replied “what’s optimization?” My student said she wasn’t able to provide a succinct enough explanation but the girl was interested and likes math in general. Therefore, I decided to take the opportunity and try to encourage this little girl. There are too few women in STEM fields, not because of lack of ability, but because insufficient encouragement and motivation. Maybe this gesture will make no difference in this girl’s life, but maybe it will. I can’t tell for sure, but I sure am going to try each and every time one of these opportunities comes up. I put together an envelope with 3 optimization games (with a little message on the outside) for my student to take home with her:
It’s often the case that little gestures can change a person’s life. I remember very clearly the tiny things my teachers / mentors / advisors / friends did that inspired me tremendously. I’m sure these people won’t even remember what they did because to them it might have been nothing. To the person on the receiving end, however, it meant a lot. This gesture is my attempt at paying it forward. To all of those who inspired and encouraged me throughout my life, thank you.
Several friends, upon hearing about this story, asked me for the games so they could play with their kids. One could argue that these are more like puzzles than games. I see them as games because you can have several people playing together, each trying it their own way, and teaching each other, or challenging each other, which creates a back-and-forth discussion where everybody learns something.
Here are the ones I created:
Lego Furniture game: http://moya.bus.miami.edu/~tallys/orbtb/lego-furniture.pdf
Pack That Bag! game: http://moya.bus.miami.edu/~tallys/orbtb/pack-that-bag.pdf
The third one, I got from the puzzlor.com website: Good Burger.
I hope these games become a source of fun for you and your kids as well. Enjoy!
By the way, the Lego pieces cut out of paper work pretty well: