Stick Logic

26 January 2013 · 8 comments

in Early Years Outdoors, Maths Outdoors, Urban

One ongoing challenge for teachers is ensuring that children who finish earlier than others have something meaningful to move onto. There’s lots of possibilities outside and this stick activity is one such example. It can be completed in pairs or by children working alone. It helps if children know they can look at the work that others are doing.

Take 1: 5 triangles – not bad for starters!


The children need to find 9 sticks of about the same length. Conveniently I have a big stash of cut sticks. If you do not have such luxury items, then challenge children to find or create 9 sticks of equal length. Twigs are fine too.

Take 2: A 4 triangle option

Take 3: 7 triangles – getting better
The challenge is pretty simple: how many triangles is it possible to make using 9 sticks? I have no idea, but the photos give you an indication of how I went about the task.

Take 4: I can spot 10 triangles
This logic activity can also be ongoing over several days. I like coming up with variations on a theme and asking children to do the same. For example, what differences would we discover if:

  • We used 9 sticks of different lengths
  • We used less than 9 sticks or more than 9 sticks – Is there a pattern to what we discover?
  • We chose a different shape to create, e.g. a square

Take 5: If only I had moved the middle stick up a bit! 16 triangles

Take 6: I can count 18 triangles but I’m getting fuzzy eyes!
All-in-all it can be quite an absorbing task. I’m not sure this is the maximum number possible. If you better 18, I’d love to know how! Oh and add a link to the picture!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlene January 26, 2013 at 09:10

I challenge nursery children to work in pairs to create shape with sticks. They had a great try, unfortunately no pictures to share but works with all ages! ( when it was too icy outside I used straws to continue indoors!) cx

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Kierna C January 26, 2013 at 10:58

This is brilliant Juliet, going to share with my colleagues who are gradually ‘warming’ to the idea of outdoor learning – albeit slowly but the thaw is on!! Kierna

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Juliet Robertson January 26, 2013 at 11:07

Thanks Kierna and Charlene for both comments. I think stick activities in maths provide an ideal next step from runaround PE-based activities which could be undertaken inside or out. I love the flexibility and that it’s hard to see mistakes as failures but just a natural process of trial and error. No rubbing out needed – just move a stick! Great for building confidence too.

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wondersofnature January 28, 2013 at 10:47

We have had 2 staff meetings about allowing the pupils to use sticks-what I love is that you give a child a stick and it has the power to change into anything. Discuss sticks in a staff meeting and you end up reviewing the schools values and vision.

Sticks are amazing!!!!

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Catherine September 30, 2014 at 20:26

Fabulous challenge – working with a Y5/6 class and concentrating on angles & lines this week, we used this as a ‘warm up’ for work on diagonals in polygons. We’ve posted our experiences on our blog at http://aroomwithaview.edublogs.org/2014/09/30/triangle-challenge/
Thanks again for inspiring us!
Mrs Monaghan
A Room with a View

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Catherine October 14, 2014 at 08:44

We have just revisited this challenge and improved on our own results:
http://aroomwithaview.edublogs.org/2014/09/30/triangle-challenge/
(with a little help from a blogging friend, Mr Eldridge!)
Mrs Monaghan
A Room with a View

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Mr Walter July 13, 2016 at 10:54

We loved doing this activity on our playground. Some groups worked methodically and found one triangle, then two, then three etc. Others tried to find the maximum possible.

We found that biggest number we could make was 42.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9AbZ1DozJrieXUtMnBPMnRYOEU/view?usp=sharing

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Juliet Robertson July 13, 2016 at 21:29

Thanks for sharing – I think that’s a very good result. I’m just off to check your link.

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