Thinking Thursday: Number Pyramid

“Journaling Prompt #267 Number Pyramid” is an excerpt from Task Cards Book #6, available as a digital printable activity guide at my bookstore. Read more about my playful math books here.

Do you want your children to develop the ability to reason creatively and figure out things on their own?

Help kids practice slowing down and taking the time to fully comprehend a math topic or problem-solving situation with these classic tools of learning: See. Wonder. Create.

See: Look carefully at the details of the numbers, shapes, or patterns you see. What are their attributes? How do they relate to each other? Also notice the details of your own mathematical thinking. How do you respond to a tough problem? Which responses are most helpful? Where did you get confused, or what makes you feel discouraged?

Wonder: Ask the journalist’s questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how? Who might need to know about this topic? Where might we see it in the real world? When would things happen this way? What other way might they happen? Why? What if we changed the situation? How might we change it? What would happen then? How might we figure it out?

Create: Create a description, summary, or explanation of what you learned. Make your own related math puzzle, problem, art, poetry, story, game, etc. Or create something totally unrelated, whatever idea may have sparked in your mind.

Math journaling may seem to focus on this third tool, creation. But even with artistic design prompts, we need the first two tools because they lay a solid groundwork to support the child’s imagination.

How To Use a Number Play Prompt

Number play doesn’t have to follow school math methods. Remember the Math Rebel rule: A student may write anything that is true or that makes sense.

Most number play prompts offer nearly infinite variation. Change the numbers in the description, and wherever there is a blank you may put in any number you like. Each time you revisit the puzzle, it’s new again.

Older students may experiment with fractions, decimals, or exponential notation. Or try numbers in another base — do the patterns they found hold up when they change the way they count? Can they express these patterns with algebra?

Journaling Prompt #267 Number Pyramid

Draw a stack of blocks (big enough to write in) pyramid-style, each line having one less block than the line below. Write any numbers in the bottom blocks. In each block above, write the sum of the two below it.
Try another pyramid with different numbers. What if you put a number in the top block — can you figure out which starting numbers might make that total? Can you think of other questions to ask?

Make up some number pyramid puzzles of your own. If you put numbers in some of the other blocks (not just the bottom), can you still solve the pyramid?

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