I usually write about the new things that I am trying in my classes, but I realized this week that some of my “old” lessons are worth sharing. In my 6th grade technology class I have always taught the paper platform lesson. The source of this comes from my mentor technology teachers Larson and Roode, a true master of teaching kids to come up with creative solutions.

The paper platform project challenges students to build a three inch tall platform that can hold as many pennies as possible. The beauty of the challenge is that it is cheap and simple, yet not easy. I do not give students hints or help but ask lots of questions about their practice models. I often see all A students frustrated by this project because I will not help them solve it. I also feel it validates some students hands on skills that are often undervalued in school, but are important in the real world.

I have had lots of very different solutions over the years. The current world record is over 1500 pennies and the students get their names posted on my “Wall of Fame.” What lesson do you use to teach problem solving?

ARLI’ve done this with glue, when the glue dries it stiffens the platforms. The record I have seen is 80 pounds. I don’t know how many pennies this is. I use a weight scale and a vice.

concretekaxOne of my rules is I do not let them coat the paper in glue so they don’t get the extra strength. I do not know how you could fit 80 lbs. of pennies in a container this small?

AnonymousI was wondering how your student made a project that could hold 1500 pennies. Could you add a picture of the project, or a description of the design?

concretekaxThere is a picture of one in this article that is similar to ones that have held that many. The top ones all have similar cylinder bases of some kind.