Getting Started with Students

It's all about enticement!

There's quite a bit to read in this section of the user guide. The first most important bit is simply this: Start slowly!

The second is: Keep it fun!

The third is: Keep Stellas separate from how you grade your students—at least for quite a while. Students' first reaction might be:

"Are we getting graded on this?" Answer: "No! Not for now, anyway. Stellas won't hurt your grade. Worry not."

The main point is to ease the students into becoming involved with these problems. How you do it will depend on the relationship you have with the class. I always used a light touch and was frank about how some of these problems have an outrageousness about them.

Some Stellas simply sell themselves. Students find them irresistible. Here are half a dozen such grabbers:

Stella NumberProblem Title
1000.94Take a Walk on a Checkerboard
1009.11Triangle Count
1020.12Covered Shapes
1030.11Nine Dots
1060.41Moving Toothpicks
1090.61A Pile of Cubes

Another approach is to have a "problem of the week", that you post on Monday and spend a few minutes on each day until a solution is found. Here are a few problems that lend themselves well to this approach.

Stella NumberProblem Title
1020.42Overlapping Squares
1027.11Partition This Shape no. 1
1070.19Watson's Purchase
1090.61A Pile of Cubes
1090.73Cutting a White Pine
1100.11The Old Wooden Disc
1240.11A Fox, a Goose, and a Bag of Corn
1540.34Aggie's Eggs

In the case of "the problem of the week", you might have a class discussion for reflecting on the problem once it's solved – how students felt when they first saw it, how the class (or an individual) made progress toward a solution, and how they're feeling now that it's done (happy? angry?) This opens up the idea of lingering on a problem once it's solved, teasing out further insights about it, finding alternate solutions, etc.

On other way to enjoy the problems is to work through a fun one as a class on Friday afternoon – see 1070.19 as an example.

Bottom line: beware of jumping in with all four feet too soon, especially as regards grading anxiety. Also, you might wait a few weeks to let the school year settle down before introducing Stella to the class. In the next essay, about how I started, you'll read the result of my many years, starting in the 1960's, of toying around with these problems with students.