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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Yohaku: The Ultimate Low Floor, High Ceiling Math Task

Last spring when I was doing the Mathematical Mindsets book study, I wrote a lot about rich mathematical tasks that all students can access but that also keep going or growing for students who need more challenge.  Since then, I have been on a quest to add more tasks like this to my repertoire and recently I cam across one that I just have to share with the world.

I first heard about Yohaku in this month's issue of Teaching Children Mathematics.  I was sitting in a waiting room while reading about them and was instantly engaged in solving the examples offered in the magazine.  I quickly moved to their website and was amazed at the variety of puzzles they offered to meet many different math skill levels.  I knew this was going to be my next school wide low floor, high ceiling task.
A great Yohaku for beginners!  

I started by introducing my second and third grade group to Yohaku puzzles and by the end of the week, I had kids from K up through grade 6 working on them.  I highly recommend starting with one of the easier 2X2 addition puzzles when you introduce the idea of a Yohaku even if your students are older.  It is nice to be able to focus on the challenge of the puzzle and how to solve it and develop some strategies for solving these puzzles before moving onto more challenging puzzles.

Some Yohaku puzzles have some text at the bottom which limits the numbers you can use.  We have found these puzzles can be more challenging that the ones that do not include additional limits. 
The puzzles increase in difficulty by getting larger (2X2, 3X3, 4X4), changing the operation from addition to multiplication and changing the numbers included in the puzzle (whole numbers, fractions, decimals, algebraic symbols)

My students have generated so much enthusiasm for these puzzles that many adults in the building have joined in on the fun.  A few brave teachers have even been working together to tackle the algebraic puzzles which has really helped them move forward in their understanding of algebra. 

A teacher sent me this picture along with the words "I finally did it!"  

When kids (and adults!) are working on these, they are not only deepening their understanding of math content, they are also working on the Math Practice Standards.  

My students have decided that since these are so fun and since the entire school is working on them, we should turn our HUGE front hallway bulletin board into Giant Yohaku puzzles that are laminated so we can use dry erase markers on them and folks can solve them as they walk by or visit our school.  I think its a great way to get parents involved as well and will keep you updated here on the blog or over on Facebook once we get the project done. (We did it!  You can see it here!)

I highly recommend trying these out with your students, you can get started over on their website or grab the Yohaku book!

I also have started documenting my journey toward personalized learning!  You can read more about that here


  1. Oh my gosh, I am so thrilled to read how you have been using my yohaku puzzles with your school community! Your idea of creating a giant yohaku template for visitors to try is brilliant: I would love to see photos of this in action please. Thank you again so much for sharing.

    1. Hi Mike!
      Your puzzles have been an amazing addition to our school! We are waiting for a new roll of laminating film to arrive but should have our GIANT yohaku puzzles set up next week. I will definitely share pictures!