See This Teacher's Amazing Response To The Question, 'But When Are We Gonna Have To Use This?'

Middle-school math class: pre-algebra, permutations, combinations, and simply trying to learn anything in the midst of one of the most awkward stages of life.

A few months ago, we posted a video of a teacher using a counting puzzle to engage his students and teach them that math can be pretty cool. They had so much fun and were so excited that we picked up the story that they made a sequel.

First, a few words from Justin:

Q: What was it like to have your story on Upworthy?

"When we were filming the first video, I jokingly told my students that I thought it could go viral. When we put it up and got a thousand views just by word of mouth, we were really pleased — that was about as viral as any of us expected. So after Upworthy picked it up and we got 25,000 views in 24 hours, my students were blown away. It helped get them jazzed to take on another puzzle!"

Q: Why do you do this exercise with your students?

"Every year I get the question in class, 'When are we gonna have to use this?' And my answer to that question is, 'You're not.' That's not the point. By doing math, we are carving neural pathways that otherwise wouldn't have been there. Grappling with problems like this makes us better problem solvers, and by extension, better human beings."

And finally, the counting puzzle, take 2:

Show Transcript Hide Transcript

My name is Justin Solonynka. I still teach Math at Abington Friends School.

So, last year Justin found this puzzle.

We got a puzzle, called the All Aboard train puzzle.

And he brought it in to our class.
He said that the children can arrange the puzzle in countless ways.

We were trying to find out how many different ways we can connect them together.

We decided to figure out if it really was countless.

And then this year, we had the puzzle, Around the World by the same company and they sent it to us.

A puzzle with a circular shape rather than just a straight line.

And also said it can be arranged in countless ways.

Puzzle pieces fit together to create countless configurations.

We don't think its actually countless.

We don't think its actually countless.

We don't think its actually countless.

We don't think its actually countless.


Do you have a decent theory here?

No, no.

What makes it so much complicated?

If you flip one piece it makes a whole different...



Well, I'm not gonna tell you.


So, if you pull out an out, then the rest of the outs have seven factorial ways to fit in, is it eight factorial... Ok, there's a lot of ins and outs.


This is just, it's two times two, then add one more, then it's two to the third power, because you can flip it.

In the end, my class did find the number of ways to put the puzzle together and they got it right. It was never really about the answer, it was about the process. It was about working out our brains. And we had fun too, which isn't such a bad thing.


There may be small errors in this transcript.

This video was made by Justin Solonynka and uploaded by Abington Friends School. Don't forget to check out the original counting puzzle if you missed it!

Jun 04, 2014

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