7th Grade Math Students Puzzle Over Permutations

Date: 05/24/2013


Middle School Math Teacher Justin Solonynka presented a problem to his 7th grade math class inspired by a game found by his two-year-old daughter.

"A couple months ago, I was at a store with my daughter Lily and she was excited to find something called the 'All Aboard Train Puzzle.'" Says Justin. "I read the description on the back, and was immediately intrigued. It read, in part: '... Quirky creatures adorn both sides of the 12 puzzle pieces, allowing the train to be arranged in countless ways.'"

Countless ways, though Justin. "Hmm. Really?"

"So I brought it into my 7th grade students, and used it to teach permutations and combinations. And we figured out that the number of ways that the puzzle can be put together isn’t countless at all, though it is a surprisingly large number."

The class filmed the whole process and put it into a short video. The number of ways the puzzle can be put together appears towards the end.: How many ways can this 12-piece puzzle be put together? The answer may surprise you.

Click here for the video they made.