The mathematical potential of a stick never ceases to amaze me. Here’s my latest idea which is remarkably simple and came about owing to overhearing someone mention colour coding.
You get some sticks. You paint the ends different colours. You play with them. You explore the potential for maths. That’s it. Experiment!
Now if you have given this post a quick glance and assumed it’s for the Early Years then stop. Look again. These sticks can be used in a variety of challenging ways well beyond the Early Years.
I decided to go for pencil sized twigs. So I cut them overwinter so that they are green wood. The idea here is that the sticks are stronger and will last longer. However there’s no reason why children can’t go and gather sticks which have fallen on the ground. This ensures a higher degree of ownership. You could use lolly (popsicle) sticks but they are a poor relative. Believe me.
The ends need to be peeled. This is a job for a potato peeler. It’s as easy as peeling carrots provided there are no knots in the green wood. Little children can easily manage this task with support to get going. With dead wood the job is more difficult. I wouldn’t bother peeling in this instance.
From here the sticks can be painted at either end. I went for rainbow colours as they work well together. The first photo in this posts shows the entire collection. It’s based on a dominoes pack. I also added in a “rogue” silver and gold stick. They are a bit like the joker in a pack of cards. Part of the attraction is that the sticks are all slightly different lengths and widths. This non-uniformity adds to the interest, challenge and creativity.
Next, just have fun. Children will play with these in different ways. They may not see them as a pack of maths sticks. Little children will pick them up and carry them around an outdoor space. Some children may turn them into mixers in a patch of mud. That doesn’t matter. Let them play with the sticks in their own way. And you play with them in yours!
Here’s some of the things I had fun doing.In the photo below I explored the relationships between primary and secondary colours. Can you work out what I have done and how to recognise the complementary colours?
I’ve blogged about playing pick up sticks before. The addition of colour adds an extra challenge. If each colour is is assigned a numerical value, then suddenly decisions have to be made about which is the best stick to pick up. Oh! And if there are different colours at either end, then the numerical values needed added together. Alternatively, each colour can represent key numbers for place value, e.g. red = units, orange = tens, yellow = hundreds, etc.
Logic games work well too. In the activity below, the placement of each stick needs to be justified. That’s the only rule, really.
Traditional patterns and shapes can also be made. Don’t forget to play a game of colour dominoes too!
The possibilities are endless… what would your children do? And you? Go on… give them a go… You know you want to…