Getting Started with Students

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:

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
1070.11Limerick
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.