Cargobot for Pre-Readers (Age 5)

The Activities

  1. Topic: Tallying, Counting. Book: Tally O’Malley by Murphy. In this book, a family plays a counting game where each person picks a color of car, and then makes a tally mark when they see a car of that color. The book shows how to ‘bundle’ the marks together with the fifth mark.
  2. Topic: Tallying, Number Recognition. I put tiles with the numbers 1 – 100 in a bag. Each kid picked a digit from 1-9. Then we took turns drawing numbers out of the bag. If the number contained your digit, you got a tally mark.

3. Topic: Programming. We played Cargobot with our hands today. Cargobot is an on-line programming game where you control a robot arm, moving it left or right and picking up or dropping boxes. We played this using our own arms, and colored stones as the commands.


Your arm starts above the blue dot. The program of stones moves both boxes to the square closest to the blue dot.

4. Topic: Attributes, Set. We played a couple rounds of Set with just the solid cards.

5. Topic: Attributes, Venn Diagrams. Using the fairytale bingo cards, we categorized cards in two ways: Things that Fly vs Thing that go in Water. Girls vs Scary Things.

Girls vs. Scary Things. The witch and the three bears fit in both categories.

Girls vs. Scary Things. The witch and the three bears fit in both categories.

How did it go?

There were only 3 kids this week.


The kids all enjoyed the book. They were interested to see who would win the family’s games. Drawing numbers out and making tallies was good practice for them. I had the kids read out the name of each number they drew. There was lots of excitement when someone drew 22, since it gave the kid who had chosen ‘2’ two more tallies.


First I demonstrated how to use the stones to make a program.  Then I gave each kid one box, and asked them to move it to the square closest to the blue dot.  It took each kid a couple tries, but soon they caught on.  They were all pretty good about fixing bugs and not giving up…though my son was a bit more fragile than the others.

As each kid finished, I gave them a new task. Move two boxes to the square closest to the blue dot.  One girl quickly wrote the program, but it turned out she had expected to be able to pick up two boxes at once.  My son teased her saying of course you can’t pick up two!  I assured her that her program worked and made sense, but I asked her to update it so it would work if you could only hold 1 box at a time.

Next I checked my son’s program. It turns out that he expected that the hand could hold 2 boxes, but that it would take two ‘red’ bead to pick up two boxes. He was very upset when I tried to explain that the hand could only hold one bead at a time.

Meanwhile, the girl had a new idea. She suggested we should take the program that moves one box, and do it twice instead.  I said this was a good idea, and helped her add a second line to her program, that was identical to the first one. We tested out the program, and found that the second time the hand ended up going too far left.  She fixed it by removing one green bead from the second line. I asked why it hadn’t worked, and we figured out it was because the hand originally started above the blue dot, but after dropping the first box, the hand was above the square where the box was dropped.

Next my son and the other kid both independently had the same idea that we should repeat the first program. We all worked together to try it, and then fix it.

This activity went very well, except that the kids all wanted me to check their programs with them at the same time.  I’ll have to figure out some way to remove that bottleneck. Perhaps the kids can work in pairs to check each other’s programs, now that they get the basic idea.


I let the kids vote for the next activity. Two kids voted for Set, and one voted for Venn Diagrams.  In Set the kids were fairly even, though there were many incorrect Sets picked up still.

Venn Diagrams

One kid said Venn Diagrams was boring, and I said I thought they would be fun. Once we started, everyone seemed pretty into it.  There was some disagreement on the Girls vs. Scary Things category, because one kid wanted to put the Castle and the Crown in the ‘Girls’ circle, but the other kids didn’t.

After we categorized all the squares I asked questions like: How many scary things were there? How many scary girls? How many things that were not scary and were not girls? These were all pretty easy. The only hard one was “How many things were either girls or were scary but were not both?” Some kids wanted to count the scary girls, some said they didn’t understand the question.


Pompeii Money (Age 5)

The Activities

  1. Topic: Lines, Shapes. The Case of the Missing Zebra Stripes by Time-Life Books. (Page 40 – 47). This section was about lines: parallel, intersecting, shapes.
  2. Topic: Money, Addition. I showed the kids glass beads that I said were money from a different country.  Green beads were worth $3, red beads were $2, and yellow beads were $1. First I handed out small handfuls of money, and helped the kids add it up.  Next we figured out how much more money each kid needed to have $20. Finally, I opened up a Math Circle store where the kids could spend their money on tiny toys.

    My kids playing 'store' after circle.

    My kids playing ‘store’ after circle.

  3. Topic: Attributes. I taught the kids Set.  We only used the solid colored cards. First I explained what a Set is: a set of three cards where all three cards either match or are different for each attribute.  Next we looked at two cards and figured out what 3rd card would make a set.  Finally we played Set, laying out 9 cards at a time. Each kid would raise their hand if they thought they saw a Set.

    Each row is a Set.

    Each row is a Set.

How did it go?

Pompeii Money

The kids all said they had seen money before.  I told them that we would play with pretend money from a different country.  I asked what our country should be called? One boy immediately proposed “Bumpitup” which he said was a country that had been destroyed by a volcano.  I asked if he meant “Pompeii”, and he said yes.

I showed the kids the values of the different colors of money, then handed a few beads to each kid.  The kids really varied in their ability to add up the money.  Two of the kids just wanted to count the beads, not add up the dollar amount.  They seemed to understand what was going on, but needed one-on-one help to add 3+3, etc.  Another kid could pretty much do it on their own, with just a little help.  My son could quickly add it all up himself.

We did two rounds of adding small groups of money.  Everyone soon understood that greens were the best, since they were worth three.  Next I worked with the kids to add money so that each had $20.

I asked “What’s the fun thing about money?” One kid said the fun was that you can use money to buy more money.  I then opened the store, which had small stickers and toys available for $2, $5, or $10.  The kids took turns picking an item and paying me the correct amount (often needing help).


My son had played Set before, but the other kids had not.  We practiced finding Sets, and then eventually played a couple rounds. If one kid fell behind, I let that kid have extra time (and clues) to find the next Set.  All 4 kids caught on by the end of circle, and were excited to play.

Boys Are People, Of Course! (Age 5)

The Activities

  1. Topic: Symmetry: Book: Seeing Symmetry by L. Leedy.
  2. Topics: Graphs, Drawing, Geometrical Drawing: I made some fairly simple line drawings on graph paper, each on a separate small sheet of paper.  I gave each kid a sheet of graph paper, and they needed to (exactly) copy the drawing.  Once they finished, they would get a new one to copy.IMG_1430
  3. Topic: Programming:  We used our usual parent programming set-up, with two new commands, “Pick Up” and “Drop” (instruction cards here and here).  The task was command the robot to transfer 3 books from the island in our kitchen to the counter top (so you needed to pick up the book, turn around, go two steps, put down, etc.).
  4. Topic: Sets:  We discussed whether there were more boys or more people in the world.
  5. Topics: Probability, Numbers:  We have some “percentile dice” — a set of two ten-sided dice, one of which has 10/20/30/… and the other with 1/2/3/…  If you roll both, you get a number from 0 to 99.  We played three variants of the same game.  First, each kid wrote down any number, and then we rolled the dice.  If your number was higher, you won.  After we played this several times, we switched to the same game, but trying to get lower.  Finally, we played a variant where you chose a single number, and then we rolled 5 times.  You won if there was at least one time your number was higher and at least one time your number was lower.

How Did It Go?

All 5 kids were there this week.

Seeing Symmetry

This book explained linear and rotational symmetry.  The kids were pretty good at drawing lines of symmetry on an object by the end of the book.  One of the kids didn’t like the book and wanted to move on to the next activity.

Copying Drawings

The kids had greatly varying degrees of success on this task.  It was not easy for any of them.  One common issue was following the gridlines.  Some kids got the hang of this, but even they sometimes just stopped following the gridlines; while other kids had more trouble.  Many of the kids’ first instinct was to free-hand copy the graph.  Diagonals were a big challenge; some kids drew curves instead of diagonal lines, they had more trouble counting the lengths of the other lines, etc.  Our son got pretty frustrated when he made mistakes.  All of the kids did complete at least one successful drawing; many of them finished several, some of them very nice.

Parent Programming

As usual with parent programming, some of the kids got distracted some of the time, since it’s a group activity with only one output.  But all of them participated at least some.  In the end, they had a program that successfully moved two of the three books.  As expected, it was GREAT whenever the robot dropped the book on the floor — so much so that one of the kids started trying to sabotage the program so it would keep falling on the floor (they did know how to successfully sabotage, at least…).  I let them add instructions at “run time” for a while, but then had them start over and check whether the instructions they had were correct (not surprisingly, they weren’t, because not all of the verbal instructions to the robot were faithfully recorded).  All in all this was reasonably successful, and in particular no one tried to make a nonsense program on the side, which was a common problem with the older kids’ circle.

Boys vs People

As opposed to the square vs. quadrilateral, this was easy for them, they had no doubt that there were more people (“boys and girls are both people”).  I asked whether there were more boys or girls in the world, only one kid had a thought about this and said there were the same.  I asked about insects vs. people and they said more people.

Higher/Lower Dice

First we practiced reading the percentile dice.  Three of the kids could do it fairly well, the other two couldn’t.  One of the three often swapped the tens and ones.  Most, but not all, of the kids could reliably answer questions like “is 71 higher or lower than 19”.  Next we played the game where you wanted your number to be higher.  The initial numbers were 10, 40, 100000, 1000, and 101.  10 and 40 lost.  At this point, we started rotating who was doing the rolling, so each kid got a turn, and I guessed as well (foolishly). In the next game, 10 switched to 20, the others switched to at least 100 (including at least one number > 1 million, which that kid thought was 1000), and I guessed 1.  The final round, the 20 may have switched to 40, I can’t remember; I guessed 0.  The kids noticed that I lost, but they didn’t think my guess was hilarious — which suggests they haven’t fully grasped this game yet.  Then we switched to the smaller game.  Everyone chose 1 or 2, and stayed there (except me, I always chose big numbers).  Finally, I explained the higher/lower game.  One of the kids was very concerned and didn’t know what to pick.  Another kid tried to get me to let them choose two numbers (I said no).  The chosen numbers were all big, the smallest somewhere around 100; and they all lost.  The next round, two of the kids stayed with really big numbers, the others switched to 19, 31, and 50; those three won.  The final game, the two kids still stayed with big numbers, and the others switched to 2, 10, 11 — everyone lost.  I realized partway through that it’s a great help if you have tokens to give out every time someone is higher/lower.  That way it’s really easy to keep track of what everyone has gotten so far.  Clearly some of the kids realized you want something that has some numbers below and some above, but not all of them, and the ones who did still weren’t choosing numbers in the middle all the time.

The Sorting World Record! (Age 7)

The Activities

1. Topic: Trading, Equivalent Values. Dinosaur Deals by Murphy.

2. Topic: Logic, Indirect Reasoning. I told the kids an interesting story about a poor girl, a prince, and a mean king, and asked them to explain the ending.

3. Topic: Sorting. Sort cards with the numbers 1 – 104 on them.

4. Topic: Graphs, Partial Ordering. Build structures out of numbered Keva blocks. Then build a diagram describing the build order of the structure.

A block struture with its diagram.

A block struture with its diagram.

5. Topic: Attributes. The kids played the game Set.  A ‘set’ is a group of three cards where each attribute (number, shape, color, shading), is either the same or different on all 3 cards. For example, the top 2 middle card and the 3rd card on the bottom are a set because:

  • Each card has exactly 1 shape.
  • Each card is a different color.
  • Each card is an oval.
  • Each card has different shading.


How did it go?

Life or Death?

Here’s the story I told the kids (adapted from Math from Three to Seven by Zvonkin).

A poor girl and a prince fell in love. The King did not want them to marry, but he said he’d give them one chance.  He would put the word “Life” on one card, and “Death” on another, and put both cards in a hat. If the girl drew out “Life”, then she could marry the prince. If she drew out “Death”, then she would be killed. The girl would draw a card out at noon in front of the whole Kingdom.

The king really did not want her to marry the prince, so he told his advisor that he was planning to put two cards that both said “Death” in the hat. The prince heard the King talking, and warned the girl.  The girl was very scared, but then she came up with a plan.

At noon the next day, she drew a card out of the hat, and then…she ate it!

Why did she eat it?

The kids suggested various things like, “Maybe the king will make new cards”, or “Maybe the girl can put two “life” cards in”.

Eventually with some clues they realized that the townspeople could look at the leftover card to tell what the girl had drawn out.  The leftover card will say “Death”, so the girl must have eaten “Life”. The king did not want to admit his trick, so the girl got to marry the prince.


Two weeks ago I the big kids circle set a new record for sorting.  104 cards in 12:30 seconds.  There were only two kids at that circle, and this time we had 3 kids.  I challenged the kids to beat the previous best time. Before they started, my daughter explained the strategy they had used last time, and the kids agreed to use that strategy again this time.

Each kids would take a stack of cards and then put each card where it should go, leaving gaps whereever there are missing numbers.  The kids started working right away, and made really good progress.  Toward then end, one girl ended up picking up all the cards and sorting them herself.  I said “It seems like you’ve really slowed down now…”  My daughter said “She has all the cards!”  I said she should ask, and the other girl immediately handed cards to each other kids.

In the end they finished in 8:30, destroying the previous record!

Construction Graphs

My daughter had done this in the small circle two weeks ago, and immediately started building structures and drawing her own graphs.  I worked through a sample with the other two kids, who quickly got the basic idea. Then we took turns building structures and drawing graphs. We also started with a graph, and then built the corresponding structure.

It was still possible to confuse the kids by building complex structures, so it’s worth doing this again.


The kids were all excited to play Set, especially my daughter. She was quite a bit faster than the other two, so I made her slow down or let them have a turn, so they got a chance.

595 Jumps

The Activities

1. Topic: Shapes. Book: A Triangle for Adaora by Onyefulu.  This is a book about a young African girl searching for a triangle. It has nice photographs of shapes in an African town.

2. Topic: Shapes, Logic, Sudoku.  Shape Sudoku: I gave the kids cut out shapes and sudoku sheets.  Each row and column should have one of each shape. Here are the puzzles we made.

A solved shape sudoku.

A solved shape sudoku.

3. Topic: Shapes, Sets. Count the number of circles, squares, rectangles, and quadrilaterals. Are there more squares or quadrilaterals in the world?


4. Topic: Counting, Written Numbers.  Jumping Dice: Each kid takes a turn rolling two dice. The first die goes in the 10 spot of a number.  The second die goes in the ones spot. So a 6 then a 3 means 63.  Next we all get up and jump 63 times, counting together. This was a huge hit!

5. Topic: Physics, Water, Drawing. Waterline Drawing: I asked the kids to draw a glass of water sitting on the table. Then I dumped out the water and asked them to predict how the water would look if I tilted the cup sideways.

My son's waterline drawings.

My son’s waterline drawings.


Another kid’s drawing.

5. Topic: Probability, Pigeonhole Principle. Shoes in the Closet: I told the kids about a boy whose closet was very dark.  He had two pairs of shoes in there, and had to pick shoes out until he got a matched pair.  How many shoes do you have to pick out before you know you will get a pair?  What’s the least number of shoes you’ll have to pick?  We used a bag and 2 pairs of glass chips for the shoes.

The 'shoes'

The ‘shoes’

How did it go?

I led the younger kids circle this week. We had 4 kids, and a really fun, lively circle :-).  This lesson is based on activities in Math from Three to Seven by Zvonkin.

Shape Sudoku

I handed out simple charts that were missing only one shape, and asked the kids what shape was missing.  A few kids initially suggested making a pattern in the row like: triangle, circle, triangle.  After a few suggestions someone said they would put the missing shape in the spot.  I then showed the kids how each row and column had one of each shape.

Next I handed out the harder puzzles. 3 of the 4 kids finished the puzzles with no problems. The 4th made a mistake, but was soon able to fix it.

Counting Quadrilaterals

I spread some attribute blocks out on the table. The kids started complaining that they had already used the attribute blocks at least 90 times before, so I said we would use them 91 times now.

First I asked them to count the number of triangles, circles, squares, and rectangles. Next I asked them to count the quadrilaterals.  None of the kids had ever hear that word before, so I explained it was a shape with 4 sides.  I asked if anyone saw any quadrilaterals on the table, and a girl picked up a square. The other kids started counting squares. Then the same girl said a rectangle was a also a quadrilateral, so the kids all counted the squares and rectangles.

Next I asked if there were more squares or quadrilaterals in the world. My son said there should be the same because squares are quadrilaterals.  I asked if there are the same number of squares and quadrilaterals on the table, and the kids said more quadrilaterals.

So I asked again about the world.  One girl suggested there would be more squares because there are so many windows in the world.  Another kid said there would be more quadrilaterals, but couldn’t explain why. They also couldn’t explain how they knew there were more quadrilaterals than squares on the table.

I left this as an open question.

Jumping Dice

I got out two dice. The kids took turns rolling the purple die, which went into to the ‘tens’ spot, and then rolling the white die, which went into the ‘ones’ spot. So a 6 then a 3 would be 63.  Then we would all get up and jump that number of times.

The kids LOOOVED this game. I would complain that I didn’t want to jump a lot, so I would root for small numbers.  I also let each kid decide whether we would jump or clap the number on the die, but the kids always picked jumping.  We ended up jumping 595 times!

I asked the kids what they thought the biggest number of jumps could be? A couple kids said they wanted to get 99 or 100 jumps. After circle, my son said that 66 would be the biggest number.

I also asked question like, is the new number bigger or smaller than the last number?  Also, various kids volunteered to lead the counting while we jumped. No one wanted to stop playing this game, but it was pretty tiring, so on to the next activity!

Waterline Drawing

I drew a picture of a cup on a table top for each kid. The kid then colored in the water.  My son initially drew a vertical line for the water, but changed to horizontal after seeing his friends’ pictures.  Next I dumped out the water and then showed the kids that I was going to tip the cup sideways. I drew a tipped cup on each kid’s paper and asked them to draw in the water.  Most kids drew the water exactly the way it was when the cup was level.  My son actually drew the water in the top half of the glass 🙂

Then I added water to the glass and showed the kids how it looked when it was tipped.  One kid was then able to accurately draw the waterline. The other kids drew a diagonal line, but put the water on the wrong side of the line.

Shoes in the Closet

I told the kids about the boy with the dark closet who needed to get matching shoes.  I had a bag and two pairs of glass beads (2 red, 2 blue). The kids took turns drawing beads out of the bag until they got a pair of shoes.

The first round it took every kid 3 draws to get a pair.  I asked if it would always take 3 tries? Some kids said yes.  One girl said it could take only two, if you drew a blue and then a blue.

I asked if it could ever take more than 3 draws? My son said it could. I asked how? He said first you could draw the red, then the blue, then a green, then a yellow. I pointed out there were no greens or yellows in the bag.

A couple kids thought maybe 3 was the most it could take, but no one could explain it fully.

Spilled Water and Furry Houses

The Activities

  1. Topic: Factors: Book: One Hundred Hungry Ants by E. Pinczes.
  2. Topics: Sets, Attributes: I had a number of groups of four clip-art pictures, download here.  I asked the kids to divide them into two groups based on some attribute (e.g., girls vs. boys).  For each set, we came up with as many ways to group the pictures as possible.
  3. Topics: Geometry, Graphs, Map Coloring: I had several different similar pictures of flowers, with clearly defined regions.  The task was to color each flower using as few colors as possible, subject to the rule that no two adjacent regions could have the same color (this is often referred to as the map coloring problem).  Some of the flowers could be done using 3 colors, others required 4.  You can download the pictures here.
  4. Topics: Measurement, Conservation of Volume:  I gathered a number of different household containers, such as drinking glasses, tupperware, a champagne glass, etc.  The goal was to compare the relative volumes of each of these containers by pouring water from container to container.
  5. Topics: Games, Tower of Hanoi:  We have enough sets of Tower of Hanoi for each kid to have one.  I started them with three rings each and then we tried the four ring version.

How Did It Go?

We had 4 kids this week.

One Hundred Ants

The kids listened intently to this book and noticed that the other animals were stealing the food while the ants were busy making rows.  I didn’t do any follow up discussion about the different ways to make 100.

Clipart Classification

The kids had plenty of interesting ways to group together the different pictures.  They noticed shoes, whether or not the characters were stick figures or not, hair color, boys/girls, and more.  Most of the time they were easily able to explain why they grouped them the way the did.  The fairy tale one (Red Riding Hood, Gingerbread Man, gingerbread house, and three bears) was the most interesting.  They got gingerbread/not-gingerbread right away.  The next thing proposed was red riding hood + gingerbread house, with the explanation that red riding hood could live in the house while the three bears could eat the gingerbread man.  This may have been spurred by one of the kids having already made a mash-up story using all the cards.  I made a silly one where I put the bears with the gingerbread man and said that those two were furry.  They disagreed, but the explanation one of them gave was that the inside of the house could be furry :).

Map Coloring

The kids made rather different amounts of progress on this one.  One kid understood the rules, and I helped them get through all 4 of the pictures.  Another mostly understood the rules but kept accidentally coloring adjacent regions the same color.  Another wanted to keep coloring the first picture with different color schemes.  And the final one wanted to watch everyone else do theirs instead of working on their own.  For the one who made it through all 4, I asked what the difference between the first and last one was (6-petals vs. 5-petals), but their answer was mostly “3 colors worked on this one but not that one.”

Relative Volumes

I decided that I would do all the pouring, which in theory could have made it less engaging; as it turned out, the problem was that the kids got TOO excited (my son had to have a timeout partway through because he was dumping water out of the cookie tray I was using to catch any spilled water).  My measurement method was to fill one of the things and then pour it into the other.  They understood the idea that if it overflowed, then the first was bigger.  They were super excited whenever it overflowed, as you might expect.

The kids don’t really understand transitivity, and as a result they didn’t realize that we could come up with a total order over all the items.  A particularly good example of this is that initially, most of the kids thought the champagne glass would be bigger than a drinking glass, because the champagne glass was taller; and later on, many of them still thought the champagne glass would hold more than an even bigger drinking glass.  They certainly gravitated towards preferring the taller thing.  They greatly underestimated the volume of a 5-6″ square, 2″ tall tupperware — they initially thought it was the smallest but it was actually one of the biggest.  At one point, one kid said that the big drinking glass would hold about twice as much as the champagne glass, because about half the champagne glass was just stem — a nice observation (although actually the drinking glass was way more than that, because it was also much wider).

Tower of Hanoi

The kids got the rules in a reasonable time; there were a couple of things they tried: holding one ring off to the side while they used their other hand to move another ring; and moving a whole pile of rings at a time.  I started with a 3-ring puzzle, and no one could solve it — no one came up with the hard idea of moving the little ring on top of the 2nd smallest in order to make space for the big one to move.  Interestingly, several of them got the (seemingly equally hard) idea of then needing to move the little one to the empty spot so they could move the middle ring onto the big one.  By the end, most of them had successfully demonstrated the solution to the 3-ring puzzle.  The 4-ring puzzle was quite a bit harder; several kids made it to the point that they had moved the 2nd biggest ring (but not the biggest) — one kid did solve the puzzle but with help from me at several points.  So they definitely have lots of room to improve.

The Chaos of Sorting

The Activities

  1. Topic: Money: Book: The Coin Counting Book by Williams.
  2. Topic: Sorting: Sort the cards 1 – 104 in 15 minutes

    My daughter in the middle of the sorting activity.

  3. Topic: Sets: Play ‘Set’ with the Attribute Blocks.  Find a set of 3 shapes that for each attribute are the same or all different. The attributes are color, size, shape, and thickness.

    This is a set. Thickness: same, Size: same, Shape: different, Color: different.

    Not a set. Color: same Thickness: same Shape: different. Size: this is the problem. two are big but one is small.

  4. Topic: Numbers and Counting: Make decimal and Egyptian numbers out of the Base Ten Blocks unit blocks. For example, I say make 237, and the kids should grab 2 hundred squares, 3 ten bars and 7 unit cubes.  Or I show a number written in Hieroglyphics and the kids make it out of blocks.


This was an easy circle to prepare.  For the sorting activity we used the cards from the card game Category 5.  We printed out simplified heiroglyphic numbers.

How did it go?

We had 5 kids at circle this week.


We’ve done sorting several times before, and it is always fascinating to watch.  Last week we had the 3 parents do this same activity, and the kids watched, hopefully learning some strategies from watching the parents.

I shuffled up the deck of 104 cards, and hand a stack to each kid. Then I say ‘Go!’, and watch what happens.  This time one of the kids started telling the others to sort the cards into a separate pile per decade (i.e. 20s in one pile, 30s in another). This is how the parents solved this problem last week.

At first the kids each sorted into their own separate piles, but eventually 3 of the kids started working together. Then one kid took the #s 1 – 10 to lay out on the floor but didn’t tell anyone else, so the other kids were shouting “Where are the low numbers?” The kids used their decade piles to lay out the 30s, 40s, and 50s, but by then the remaining cards had gotten mixed together.  All the kids then grabbed their own random pile of cards, and progress really slowed down.

They got to 75 before the timer beeped and then they begged to keep going.  At this point 2 kids were holding the last 30 cards, and they were giving them out one by one. One of the other kids started laying out each card approximately where it should go, even if it left a gap. This sped everything up dramatically, and they finished all 104 in 4 extra minutes.

Attribute Block Set

At first, the kids didn’t quite understand what they were supposed to do.  As soon as you see a ‘Set’ of three shapes you call out ‘Set!’ and pick them up. We started playing a round, and two of the kids got 5 sets, while the others got 2, 3, and 3. By the end of the round everyone understood, and wanted to play another round. This time it was more even: 5, 3, 3, 3, 3.

Big Numbers

First I called out the number ‘782’.  All the kids immediately gathered together 7 hundred squares, 8 ten bars and 2 unit blocks.  Next I showed them the Egyptian number chart, and asked them to make an Egyptian number out of Base Ten Blocks.  All the kids quickly did this, and when I asked them the English name of the number they were able to answer ‘576’. The Egyptian numbers are fun to work with because they are pretty pictures, and it’s a different way of representing numbers.