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Suzanne Alejandre's

Sator Classroom Activity

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Objectives: NCTM Standards: Number and Operations and Connections]

  1. Students will learn the properties of a crossword square that uses letters.
  2. Students will learn how to create a square using letters.
  3. Students will compare two kinds of squares - magic squares using numbers and crossword squares using letters.


Prepare as overhead transparencies and/or handouts: Also provide...
    5. Blank paper
    6. Blank overhead transparency and pens
    7. Rulers


Display the Sator Square.
    1. What is the relationship between the letters in sator and rotas?
    2. How many T's are there?
    3. Where are the R's positioned?
    4. What is magic about the arrangement of the words in the Sator Square?

    1. If the numbers 1 through 26 are assigned to the letters A through Z, and the numbers are then substituted for the corresponding letters in the Sator Square, what number relationships does the result show?
    2. Is it a magic square?
    3. Why or why not?
Once the students have been introduced to an example of a square that uses letters, they can try to create one. Unlike numerical magic squares, there are only two requirements for crossword squares using letters:
    Reading left to right, all the entries form words.
    Reading top to bottom, all the entries form words.

    Constructing a Crossword Square using letters:
    1. With the teacher modeling on the overhead projector, have the students construct a 3x3 grid.

    2. Think of one 3-letter word.

    3. Write that word in the first row and the first column of the 3x3 grid.

      Example - step one:

      L E E

    4. Think of another 3-letter word that starts with the last letter of the first word. In the example given, a word beginning with E is necessary. Possibilities include "egg," "eye," and "eel," to name a few.

    5. Choose one and try it, remembering that the second row and column will need to be completed to form words.

      Example - step two:

      L E E
      E .. E
      E E L

    6. Select a letter for the center position to complete the word for the second row and the second column.

      Example - step three:

      L E E
      E Y E
      E E L

      [Note: I made this crossword square for my son, Lee. Lee just got new glasses for his eyes to look at his new eel!]

    7. Try the same process to create a 4x4, 5x5 or ..... crossword square.

    Additional Activities:

    1. Challenge students to create crossword squares using words that have special meaning for them or the school.

    2. Instruct students to write accompanying explanations of their squares.

    3. Challenge students to create a square using letters that is also a numerical magic square if the corresponding numbers are used.

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