Bears and Fish #2

Image from Wikipedia683px-polar_bears_play_fight1

I have been amazed at the interest shown in the “Bears and Fish” problem!

I sometimes walk around a class, roll 5 dice on a table in front of a student, state how many bears and fish, then walk away. I come back in a minute (after helping another student) and repeat the process. When I get a query like “what do you mean?” or “how do you work that out?”, I will quote the rhyme: “Polar Bears occur in pairs…..”

Don’t under estimate the power of a good problem to motivate students to think mathematically. Be wary though, once hooked, the student/s will not want to do any other work!

Why is this such an engaging problem? Is it because it has a nice story shell? Could we invent other similar problems using dice, that have a story shell and entice students to search for patterns?

PS.  I have had a teacher aide get hooked by this problem (thanks Julie) and go home and use it on her children. I have turned up to a school council meeting and been confronted by a parent (thanks Karen), “how do you solve the bears and fish problem?”


About webmaths

I have been teaching Mathematics in Victorian secondary schools for 30 years. I use the www to make my maths lessons better. I hope this blog will give other teachers some ideas to try in their own classes.
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One Response to Bears and Fish #2

  1. Kristen says:

    Hi Jeff –

    I’m not familiar with the bears and fish problem. Could you explain more? Thanks!


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