Petals Around the Rose
3rd to 5th
Samuel E. Zordak
Before teaching this lesson, play Petals Around The Rose for yourself. You will only be able to teach this lesson effectively if you have solved the problem on your own before giving it to students.
As students enter the classroom, stand at the front of the room and roll dice. Continue rolling until a student finally asks, "What are you doing?"
Say, "The name of the game is Petals Around the Rose. The name is important. I will roll five dice, and I will tell you how many petals appear."
Roll the dice so that all students can see the results. If possible, use transparent dice on the overhead projector so that all students can see the roll. After each roll, tell the students how many petals are showing.
For example, if you roll the following, inform students that there are ten petals:
Continue for several rolls. As necessary, repeat the lines above, especially when students ask for a hint: "The name of the game is Petals Around the Rose. The name is important. I will roll five dice, and I will tell you how many petals appear."
As you roll the dice, encourage students to keep track of the rolls and the number of petals. Explain that a table of results will make it easier to identify any patterns and discover a rule.
Should a student suggest that she knows the rule for determining the number of petals, do not ask her to share it. Instead, roll the dice and ask her to identify the number of petals. If she answers correctly for several rolls in a row, declare her to be a Potentate of the Rose and tell her, "Now that you are a Potentate, you are sworn to secrecy about the rule. You must never reveal the method for determining the number of petals. Only those who solve it themselves should know the secret." (To help maintain secrecy, you can allow students who figure out the rule to roll the dice as a reward.)
You may want to ask students to generate a list of questions for which they would like to know the answer. Questions could include:
Depending on the questions on this list, you might want to answer some or all of them. However, do not reveal too much. Arranging the dice in order from least to greatest, for instance, does not affect the number of petals, so you should feel free to do so. But rolling just one die and reporting the number of petals would likely give away the rule, so you probably should not do that.
It may be that no student will determine the rule within the first ten rolls or so. To keep excitement high, you might want to stop the game and say, "Okay, we are not playing the game any more today. We’ll return to it tomorrow when we have more time. But let’s make a list of what you’ve learned about the game so far." Have students generate a list of observations, which may include:
As is likely obvious, the important part of Petals Around the Rose is not the problem, but rather the strategies that students employ. Students might use any number of strategies to think about the puzzle, including:
In addition to revealing various problem-solving strategies, this problem also teaches students persistence, since they are not allowed to know the rule unless they discover it on their own.
Polar bears come in pairs. They sit around a hole in the ice like petals on a flower.
Students will quickly realize that the rule for determining the number of bears is the same as the rule for determining the number of petals around the rose. Students will have a more difficult time determining the rule for finding the number of fish.
Questions for Students
3rd to 5th