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Seven Flipped

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Seven Flipped

 
seven hexagons

You have seven hexagonal-shaped mats in a line.
These mats all have to be turned over, but you can only turn over exactly three at a time.
You can choose the three from anywhere in the line.
A mat may be turned over on one move and turned back over again on another.

What is the smallest number of moves you can do this in?
Try with other numbers of mats.
Do you notice any patterns in your findings?
Can you explain why these patterns occur?
 

Click here for a poster of this problem.

 

Why do this problem?

This challenge is quite tricky, but it is a motivating context in which children can develop a logical, systematic approach.

 

Possible approach

It would be useful to introduce the problem on an interactive whiteboard so that the whole group can be involved with deciding which mats to turn. Alternatively, cardboard mats coloured differently on each side could be used and pinned to a board. This initial whole group work will familiarise the children with the "rules" of the problem so that they will be confident to find the smallest number of moves in pairs.

It will be important for them to devise a recording system that they are happy with, and this is something that can be addressed in the introduction, for example by asking whether they would be able to repeat the moves they made. Encourage them to think about odd and even numbers of flips, and when they come to investigate other numbers of tiles, you might expect them to generalise for multiples of three at least.

Elise Levin-Guracar kindly shared this sheet with us which includes a chart for tracking moves.  She found it was was helpful to point out to students where they were trying the same thing over and over again, and where they could be trying something new. The last page of the document is a chart by number of dots and the minimum moves to flip. There are also blank moves charts. Thank you, Elise!

 

Key questions

How will you keep track of what you have tried?