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As the summer wound down, I found myself frequenting home improvement stores to cross of those last few items on my to-do list. In that wandering, I came across a Giant Jenga topic on a Home Depot Community blog by employees/associates.

I figured this would be a great way to tie-in at the beginning of the school year to talk about traits of shapes (in this case squares, so that the Jenga tower has no overlapping from one level to the next). Particularly, I wanted them to address the trait of the assembly that the length of each board was supposed to be the width multiplied by the number of boards stacked across the assembly--in this case, 3 x 5.5" since we went three boards across and each measured 5.5" wide. I was able to toss the idea at the woodworking teacher, who was going to be biding his time in class until students had passed their safety quizzes so they could safely operate the machinery in their shop. He agreed that a straightforward, repetitive project like this one would allow his students to use multiple machines (miter saw, table saw, and planer for example).

Before embarking on the project, I made sure to set the scene with my students and pique their interest in creating their own Giant Jenga. They insisted we Google it to see if someone else had already come up with the idea before them. A sweet collection of games came up, but mostly photos, aside from the Home Depot article I'd mentioned above. They noticed it included measurements (i.e. the answer, they thought). I agree with Dan Meyer here: questions like these are most effective when they are un-Google-able.

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Students try out our Giant Genga game as a reward for their efforts.
I insisted we go bigger than the Home Depot site had done; we should use 2" x 6" boards instead. The task in class that day was for them to help me make out my shopping list. Some prompts we had to answer:
  • Why did the Home Depot site mention each board being cut to 10.5" long?
  • Would that same length apply when using 2" x 6" boards?
  • Could we just buy the longest boards available, or would 8-foot, 10-foot, or 12-foot boards help minimize waste?
  • How many, and which length, should I purchase? (When I was at the store, I also discovered the unit rate for these boards differed somewhat; namely that the shorter boards were the cheapest for foot-length. I anticipate revisiting this observation in a later lesson.)

The final product is pictured here. Although it is heavy and not "broken in yet" where the pieces slide easily in and out of their slots, students have enjoyed playing it in the couple of opportunities they have had. The other students from the woodworking class have come by to see the final product in action, since they only saw the raw materials and had not seen the final product in action.

I saw recently where Andrew Stadel had posted about an "experienced" Rubik's cube he held onto and a curious student managed to master quickly. While I have a growing collection of Rubik's cubes and similar puzzles (as seen on the banner for this site, atop the shelves in my classroom with Hoberman spheres and other math-y relics), I hope this Giant Jenga game at least makes an impact on these students since they are the ones who came up with the recipe--or the shopping list, I suppose.

--Keltner--

10/14/2012 02:12:20 am

I'm very tempted to use this. I'm wondering if it would be worthwhile to build one that is proportional to the actual Jenga game. It would probably require more cuts since the ends of the store-bought boards would not be similar to the Jenga pieces. Cool idea.

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10/16/2012 03:24:46 am

Actually, we accounted for wanting to lose the factory ends of the lumber, for a more consistent surface on the edges of all the boards. We used 8-foot lengths and still had plenty of excess to allow us to do so. Thanks for your comments.

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7/11/2013 09:38:51 pm

The tutorial at homedepot.com to build the giant Jenga game was really useful for us. We have built the same recently. Playing with the giant pieces is so tough. But, still it's fun to play. Anyway, thanks for the post!

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10/26/2013 07:09:06 am

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