Very cheap resources that can be used when embedding mathematical ideas are bendy straws; you can see a few examples below.
Instead of using matchsticks you can cut the straws where they bend making a straight length, this makes the normal matchstick puzzles bigger, colourful and, if needed, you can incorporate colours and change the pieces to add further depth and strategies.
Make 2D and 3D shapes. The short bendy section can be folded along its length making it smaller so it can be inserted into the longest section of another straw, you can also ask questions such as; ‘ what shape can we make using 1,2,3,4 straws and so on?’
Follow the link to show how you can make these 3D shapes which can be made even more exciting when using them to make bubble shapes. http://britton.disted.camosun.bc.ca/strawshapes/straws.htm
If you cut some straws at different lengths, you can see how many different types of triangles can be made, (a handy tip is to use 4 colours, each colour to be the same length for example all red to be the same. Then a record of the findings can be made and questions asked to establish if there is a pattern?
Get one straw (with bendy section cut off) and see without bending how many triangles can be made? Try with 2, 3,4,5 and so on don’t forget to record the data. Is there a pattern?
There are many other puzzles online. I’m going to be playing with one on the Enrich website http://nrich.maths.org/8847
I welcome any thoughts and ideas so please comment on the blog.