Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day–Math Play!

Leap Day! Math Play! (Ages 4-12)

Join us as we celebrate this once-every-four-year occasion with some truly wild and wacky mathematics!  We’ll have challenging problems, math riddles, special puzzles, and more for pre-schoolers and pre-teens – and everyone in between! (Caregivers can get into the action too.)  

While kids were arriving let them browse and share math books I’d displayed – lots of recreational math books from the 510s and puzzle books from the 793.73s, plus math picture books like Math Curse by Jon Sciezka,  The Grapes of Math series by Greg Tang, Mathstart series Stuart Murphy and the fun fiction title The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger.  More ideas :

Opened by asking what was special about this day?  When will we have it again?  How old/what grade are they in now? Next leap year? – mind-boggling (kindergartners would be in 4th grade, 4th graders finishing middle school,and my 7th & 8th grade teen volunteers realized they would be in 11th and 12th – preparing for college by then!)

Read: What in the World is a Leap Year? by Desiree Busserie – read interactively so kids could answer questions as we went along.

Briefly discussed more aspects of Leap Days via Bedtime Math – problem of the day:  (no time for:  More fascinating background/trivia for Leap Year here – though I didn’t have time to use much:,

Did a prime number activity with the February calendar drawn on a white board – had volunteers come and cross off “counting by twos” then “threes” then “fours” – they noticed all had already been crossed out and figured out that that was because we’d done it with the “twos”,  then continued with “fives” “sixes” – all done already, “sevens” (mentioned prime)…and so on.  An introduction to prime numbers – not to the point of teaching them the details but just giving them a taste. This was a wide-aged group so some had heard about prime numbers before, for others it was the first introduction…

Quickly read: If You Jumped Like a Frog? by David M. Schwartz – again didn’t take the time to discuss in detail but just gave them a taste of proportion and some amazing ideas to think about.

Reinforced our number activities and gave everyone a chance to burn off steam after a long school day by having all the kids leap around the room like frogs while playng a number game inspired by:   Had made a circle around the room of 20 numbered “lily pads” (actually used the Dino Stomp Number Activity circles from Discount School Supply labeled with the numerals)  & sang “This is the way we leap around, leap around, leap around. This is the way we leap around – all on an afternoon!”  Then gave a number command “Stand next to an even number” then sang & leaped and then another number command  “Find a number less than 11” etc.  This was a BIG hit and I reprised it after the activity tables, this time having the kids make up the number command – and they came up with great ideas e.g. we could make chains for addition – “link two numbers that add up to 10.”

After they sat back down, I introduced our math-magical activities – mentioned math is more than arithmetic – shape shifting/puzzles:

  • Mobius strip magic:,
    • Showed a strip of paper – how many sides? (2)
    • Made an ordinary loop (taping together the ends), asked a to come volunteer come up and color it without lifting the marker from the paper – one side colored, other not. 
    • Cut it – showed now had 2 loops
    • Then took a second strip of paper, made one twist and taped it.
    • Had a volunteer color it without lifting the marker from the page. 
    • How many sides? (1!)
    • Cut it – now had one larger loop!
    • Suggested they try it when they went to the tables…and then try cutting it again!
  • Similar paper magic – do you think we can walk through a piece of paper?
  • Tangram puzzles – lots available here:
  • The game of SET  -- this was a big hit – my teen volunteers took turns teaching and playing with 3-5 kids at a time You can also print out puzzles from here:  Note: this is a great thing for kids/parents to try because it helps them understand people’s brains are wired differently. Often a child who is struggling with word decoding just “gets” SET! – they “see” the combinations others have to analyze to find.
  • Math puzzles from: Shape Shuffle – World Book (793.73 WOR) (photocopied pages w/ answers on the back so they could check themselves -- toothpicks or QTips & coins) – set up a table with 8-10 of these and they moved from puzzle to puzzle.





Monday, February 29, 2016  4:30 PM - 5:30 PM

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