Robot Turtle Turmoil

The Activities

  1. Topic: Powers: Book: Anno’s Magic Seeds by Mitsumasa Anno.  This book is about doubling the amount of seeds you have each year.  We acted out part of the book using the Base Ten Blocks.
  2. Topic: Weight: Weigh out a number of ounces of playdough, then make that digit with the playdough. For example, one kid weighed out 1 ounce of play dough and formed a ‘1’ out of it.  I got this idea from the book Games For Math by Kaye.
  3. Topic: Programming: Robot Turtles Board Game. This is a board game where each kid controls a turtle and writes short programs to walk the turtle around barriers to get to a jewel.


This circle took very little prep time.  Mostly I just had to gather together the materials (play dough, a scale, the base 10 blocks, Robot Turtles).

How did it go?

Anno’s Magic Seeds

This book starts with the main character getting 2 magic seeds. Then he eats one and plants the other (which grows 2 seeds the next year), and he does this 3 times in a row!  The kids started to ask me if anything else would ever happen. One of the kids said it was a very boring book.

Then finally Anno plants both seeds and the amount of seeds quickly grows.  The kids easily figured out 3 + 3 = 6, and 5 + 5 = 10.  None of the kids could do 9 + 9 in their heads so I got out the Base 10 Blocks, and showed them how to put a row of nine blocks, and then another row on top. Then the kids happily counted by 2s to 18.  Next we had to 17 + 17, which we worked together to solve.  Now we had to do 33 + 33.  For this I got out the 10 bars, and one of the kids very quickly looked at the two rows and said it was 66 (the 10 bars are awesome!).  Then we did 64 + 64 with the 10 bars, but by now, some of the kids were playing their own games with blue blocks. They protested loudly when I suggested stopping the book, so I then read the rest of it without acting it out.

Playdough Numbers

The kids were excited to work with playdough, and everyone wanted to help me weight it out.  However, no one seemed to get the point, which is to help build a feeling for weight.  Some of the kids took a verrry long time to make their digits.

Robot Turtles

This is a cool board game that teaches programming to kids age 3 – 7.  It turns out that kids that young can have trouble playing nicely.  Overall the kids really enjoyed the game, but we had our fair share of turmoil:

  • One kid crying because she didn’t get the right color turtle.
  • Two kids insisting they would both try to steer their turtles to the same jewel.
  • One kid getting trapped in a corner by another kid’s turtle.

Most of the kids did figure out how to write programs to make their turtles go where they wanted.  The kids were also excited to learn about the Laser cards in the future.


Super Bowl of Math

The Activities

In honor of the Super Bowl, today we had a football-themed circle.

  1. Topic: Counting by 2s, 3s, and 4s. Book: Spunky Monkeys on Parade, by Murphy.
  2.  Topic: Addition: Football scores.  Football plays can score either 3 or 7 points (field goal vs touchdown).
    1. How could a team score 10 points?
    2. 9 points?
    3. 20 points?
    4. 11 points?
    5. 0 points?
  3. Topic: Least common multiples:
    1. Count by 3s.
    2. Count by 7s.
    3. Some number you said both times…what’s the first number you said in both sequences?
    4. How about 3 & 5?
    5. 2 & 4?
  4. Topic: Addition: Football game simulation.  Two teams: Seatle Seahawks and Denver Broncos.  If you get to the endzone, you get 7 points. Otherwise the field goal kicker comes on, and you get 3 points. Who wins the game below
    1. Broncos: Start on 50 yard line. The quarterback throws the ball 20 yards.  Then the Broncos run the ball 15 yards.  Then they pass the ball 15 yards.  Do they score?
    2. Seahawks: Start on their own 20.  Throw 45 yards.  Run 20 yards.
    3. Broncos: Start on Seahawk’s 30. Run 10, Throw 15.
    4. Seahawks: Start on their own 40.  Throw 35 yards. Run 25 yards.
  5. Topic: Addition: Bean bag toss addition: The kids compete in Math Circle ‘football’. There’s a chart with different numbers written on it. The kids each throw 3 beanbags and then add up the numbers the beanbags land on. The highest sum wins the round.  We’ll play several rounds.


I made a really beautiful poster board football field…Luckily it was fun to make, because the math activity didn’t really justify the time it took.

The bean bag chart was easy to make, I just drew random boxed on the posterboard, and taped it to the ground.

How did it go?

We had 4 kids at circle.

Football Scores

First I told the kids how you can score 3 or 7 in football. They figured out 3 + 7 = 10 easily.  For 9, they asked for the Base Ten Blocks, and then figured out 3 + 3 + 3.  For 20, one of the kids immediately said “That’s easy! 2 7s plus two 3s”. She then explained that she doubled her answer from 10.  To get 11, they worked for a few minutes with blue blocks, and noticed that 3 + 3 + 3 wouldn’t work, and 7 + 3 wouldn’t work.  I asked what that could mean, and they said it must be impossible.

Least Common Multiples

The kids really loved counting by X…I gave them each paper and pencil, and they wanted to go on and on writing numbers: 3, 6, 9, 12, etc..  Unfortunately, they don’t yet know how to put space between numbers, so it was quite hard to identify which numbers appeared on both lists.

Football Simulation

All the kids decided they wanted the Broncos to win.

Broncos run the ball 15 yards.  Then they pass the ball 15 yards.  Do they score?

At first there was confusion about whether ‘runing the ball 15 yards’ meant the ball should end up on the 15 yard line.  Soon the kids figured out that you had to count by 10s or fives from whatever line you were one.  Some of the kids seemed persistently a bit confused by this, though there was lots of cheering and excitement when the Broncos would score, and sadness when the Seahawks scored.

Bean Bag Toss

At first the kids didn’t want to do this, but after the first round, they didn’t want to stop 🙂  They each took turns throwing 3 bean bags, and I’d write their numbers (20 + 11 + 5) on the paper, and then they’d go to the table and add it up using base ten blocks.  

They did this in interesting ways…mostly by making each of the three numbers, and counting every block. Even if they made a number using 10 bars, they would sometimes count the individiual cubes when adding it up.  I showed some of them during this time how to line up the cubes to make 10 bars, and at the end I noticed one of them did her last sum that way by herself.