Unlocking Mathematical Minds

Teacher Anthony Palma with students.

Anthony Palma’s classroom regularly is abuzz with students working to solve complex geometric puzzles. Palma can be observed crisscrossing the room with a smile as he stops to offer encouragement and advice, clearly enjoying students’ excitement and engagement.

A spacial logic puzzle Palma received during the holiday season inspired the veteran math teacher’s grant request to the Appleton Education Foundation.

“I brought my puzzle to class after the holidays and let students use it when they were done with their work. Everyone who tried it, loved it,” he said. “I thought this was an experience I wanted to share with more students, so I wrote a grant to AEF. I really appreciated the straightforward application process.”

The wooden puzzles, handcrafted by a Wisconsin puzzle maker, have varying difficulty levels and often have multiple solutions.

“This is similar to mathematical problem solving, as there often are multiple paths to the same solution,” Palma said.

He said the puzzles are especially valuable in the geometry curriculum.

“Some students struggle to visualize transformations. Puzzle days give them extra practice to grasp these abstract ideas.

“I think the coolest thing I have seen is a positive shift in students’ attitudes,” Palma said. “The puzzles instilled a sense of resilience and perseverance. These are essential qualities for success in all academic pursuits.”

This story first appeared in AEF’s 2023 Report to the Community in spring 2024. Review the complete 2023 Report to the Community.