# Building a paper bridge: An introduction to problem solving

This activity allows the student to explore problem solving strategies while working with a partner. This activity (building a paper bridge), requires students to question word definition and the application of those definitions. Through problem solving strategies, students discover the need for applying math skills.

**A lesson plan for grade 8 Mathematics**

## Learning outcomes

**Goal:** The student is to build the longest non-supported single span bridge possible using one sheet of 8.5 × 11 paper.

**Objectives:**

- To explore a variety of ideas to solve a simple problem
- To creatively find means of measuring materials to construct a paper bridge

## Teacher planning

### Time required for lesson

45 Minutes

### Materials/resources

Each student group will need the following:

- 1 sheet of paper, 8.5 × 11 (although any size will work)
- 12 inches of masking tape
- 1 pair of scissors
- a pencil

## Pre-activities

Discuss problem solving strategies and the *Ideal* problem solving system.

## Activities

- Pass out the handout titled Problem Solving Activity: To Build A Bridge.
- Go over the activity with the students.
- Group students into pairs.
- Students should begin sketching ideas on the bottom of the Problem Solving Activity page.
- Pass out to each group the following materials: 1 pair of scissors, 1 sheet of paper, 8.5 × 11, 12 inches of masking tape. Students should have their own pencil.
- As soon as students receive their materials they can begin construction of their bridge.

## Assessment

- Review the problem statement. Ask students for the definition of key words such as
*span*. - Ask for students to display their bridge and show the span of their bridge. This is a good place to discuss the meaning of
*“longest non-supported single span”*. - Determine which group built the longest single span bridge.

## Supplemental information

Teacher background knowledge of structural stress, tension, and compression would be helpful.

### Comments

This activity came from a winter technology education workshop several years ago. I first tried this activity on a snow make up day several years ago. Students had lot of fun with the activity and learned about comparing the meaning of words to find a solution. The activity fit well into lessons introducing problem solving because it could be done quickly and students enjoyed it.

## North Carolina curriculum alignment

### Mathematics (2004)

#### Grade 8

**Goal 2**: Measurement - The learner will understand and use measurement concepts.**Objective 2.02**: Apply and use concepts of indirect measurement.