Playing Math with A.A. Milne

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn’t any
Other stair
Quite like
It.
I’m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top;
So this is the stair
Where
I always
Stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:
“It isn’t really
Anywhere!
It’s somewhere else
Instead!”

—A.A. Milne
When We Were Very Young (affiliate link, see details)

The Stair-Counting Game

Play on any set of stairs where you won’t get in other people’s way. Start at the halfway step.

  • Roll one 6-sided die. Go up that number of steps.
  • Roll again. This time, go down that number of steps.
  • Keep rolling the die, alternating movements up and down.

Will you ever escape the stairs?

Fill the Stairs Game

Each player draws 11 stair steps (counting the top and bottom floors) on a piece of paper. Write zero on your middle step.

Remove the face cards and jokers from a deck of playing cards. Mix the remaining cards face down in a fishing pond.

  • On your turn, choose one card. Red cards are negative numbers, and black cards are positive.
  • Write the number from your card on one of your stair steps.
  • Then mix your card back into the pond.
  • The first player to fill their stairs with numbers in order wins the game.

The numbers have to grow as you go up the stairs and get smaller going down. But you can skip numbers. For instance, you could put +2 on the stair above zero, if you like. Or you could write −4 two steps below zero, leaving only one blank in between.

If you draw a card that will not fit on your stairs, you lose that turn. Mix the card back into the pond without writing anything.

If you make a mistake — like putting +9 too close to the middle, so there’s no way to fill the higher stairs — you can use a turn to erase one number on your stairs. You don’t get to choose a new card on the same turn as erasing a number.

Fill the Stairs Variations

Help young students understand negative numbers. A stairway makes an excellent number line visual.

Download the place value version (no negative numbers) of the stairway game from Math for Love.

Or discover variations for all grade levels at Math Hombre blog. I especially like John’s Decimal Point Pickle game. And the exponential version looks like a fun challenge.

Your Turn

Do you play stairway math? Please tell us your games and variations in the comment section below.

Or share other ideas for playing math with children. I love to hear new ways to play!

2020 Mathematics Game — Join the Fun!

New Year’s Day

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.

Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time.

However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.

— Mark Twain
Letter to Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, Jan. 1863
quoted in Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 1: 1851-1864 (affiliate link)

If you’d like to enjoy a mathematical New Year’s Resolution, may I recommend Evelyn Lamb’s Math Reading Challenge? I haven’t decided if I’m going to follow along, but it does look like fun.

Meanwhile, I do resolve to challenge myself with more math puzzles this year. Would you like to join me?

Here’s a great way to start: with the 2020 Mathematics Game!

Click here to continue reading.

Playing with Math: My Favorite Posts

The articles that attract a browsing reader aren’t the same as the ones that pull on my heart. Yesterday, I shared my most-visited blog posts of 2019. Today, I give you my most-loved posts of the year.

#12

A fun challenge, based on an old family-favorite game.

Math Game: Six Hundred

Players around the world have played poker-style dice games for ages. Reiner Knizia included this mathematical version in his book Dice Games Properly Explained

#11

Math art — what a delightful way to learn!

Updated Geometric Coloring Designs

I created these coloring pages for my homeschool co-op math kids, and then collected them into a downloadable 42-page PDF coloring book for your family to enjoy…

#10

I could watch this video every day.

Math That Is Beautiful

Do you have trouble believing that math can be beautiful?

In “Inspirations,” artist Cristóbal Vila creates a wonderful, imaginary work studio for the amazing M.C. Escher…

#9

One of my favorite hobbies is collecting inspirational quotes as I read.

Find the Sweetness in Math

Good problems can help us fall in love with math and make a delicious meal of it, sinking our teeth into tough problems, tenderized by their intrigue…

#8

From the beginning of this blog, more than a decade ago, my desire has been to help homeschooling parents (and other teachers) change how they look at math.

Math Makes Sense — Let’s Teach It That Way

Annie Fetter is talking to classroom teachers, but her message is just as important for homeschoolers. Math is all about making sense. Let’s help our kids see it that way…

#7

An excerpt from the draft of my coming-someday-it-always-takes-longer-than-I-expect Prealgebra & Geometry Games book.

Math Activity: Polite Numbers

Did you know that numbers can be polite? In math, a polite number is any number we can write as the sum of two or more consecutive positive whole numbers…

#6

A sweet little game that was a big hit with my K–2nd grade homeschool co-op math class this year.

Playing with a Hundred Chart #35: The Number Grid Game

You’ll need a 6-sided die, a hundred chart (printables here), and a small token to mark each player’s square. A crumpled bit of colored construction paper works well as a token…

#5

This number-pattern activity was so much fun with my upper-elementary class.

A Puzzle for Palindromes

Here’s a math puzzle for palindrome week — or any time you want to play with math…

#4

For years, I’ve been meaning to create an email series about learning math through play. This year I finally did.

8 Weeks of Playful Math for Families

Yes, your kids CAN learn to love math. Keep your children’s math skills fresh with my 8-week email series of math games and activities…

#3

Not a single blog post but a whole new feature, which I hope to continue in the new year.

Morning Coffee

One of the best ways we can help our children learn mathematics (or anything else) is to always be learning ourselves…

#2

The Playful Math Blog Carnival is a labor of love for all our volunteer hosts. This year, August was my month to play.

Playful Math Education Carnival 130

The Playful Math Carnival is like a free online magazine devoted to learning, teaching, and playing around with math. It’s back-to-school time in the U.S., so this month’s edition focuses on establishing a creative math mindset from preschool to high school…

#1

But the work closest to my heart this year wasn’t math at all. My daughter finally concluded her fantasy novel series, the major project of her teen homeschooling years. When she gave me the manuscript to edit, I didn’t get any sleep that night. She had me hooked — I had to find out how it ended!

The Final Books from a Homeschooled Teen Author

Do you enjoy binge reading tales of epic fantasy? Love exploring magical worlds wracked by the struggle of good against evil? Then don’t miss Teresa Gaskins’s four-book serial adventure, The Riddled Stone

How About You?

Do you play math with kids? Please tell us one (or a few) of your favorite things. What touched your heart this year?

CREDITS: “Sparkling heart” photo (top) by Jamie Street on Unsplash.

Top Playful Math Posts of 2019

Here are my most-visited posts and pages in 2019. So many ways to play with math!

#12

I love books, don’t you?

Math with Living Books

Do you want to enrich your mind with the great ideas of mathematics? Are you looking for a good book to whet your child’s appetite? Then the following pages of “living” math books are for you…

#11

A logic challenge that doubles as addition practice. Or is it the other way around?

Math Game: Thirty-One

Thirty-One comes from British mathematician Henry Dudeney’s classic book, The Canterbury Puzzles

#10

Turn a regular deck of cards into math flashcards. Adaptable to any operation.

Review Game: Once Through the Deck

The best way to practice the math facts is through the give-and-take of conversation, orally quizzing each other and talking about how you might figure the answers out. But occasionally your child may want a simple, solitaire method for review…

#9

Seasonally popular enough to make the list every year. You’ll find even more mathy fun in my updated Holiday Math Carnival.

Christmas Math Puzzles and Activities

We interrupt our regularly scheduled math program to bring you the following Christmas links…

#8

A counting game for all ages.

Math Game: Fan Tan (Sevens)

Fan Tan may also be called Crazy Sevens. Like any folk game, it is played by a variety of rules around the world…

#7

The updated post (which ranked at #18 for the year) is better: My Favorite Math Games. Eventually I hope it will surpass this old one.

20 Best Math Games and Puzzles

Over the years, Let’s Play Math blog has grown into a sprawling mess, which can make it very hard to find the specific math tip you’re looking for…

#6

What a wonderful, inspiring movie! You may also enjoy the related Women of Mathematics Carnival.

Hidden Figures Teaching Resources

Before computers were machines, computers were people who computed things. This complicated task often fell to women because it was considered basically clerical. That’s right: computing triple integrals all day long qualified as clerical…

#5

One of my all-time favorites, still helpful after all these years.

Number Bonds = Better Understanding

Number bonds let children see the inverse relationship between addition and subtraction. Subtraction is not a totally different thing from addition; they are mirror images…

#4

I intended to write a follow-up series based on this post. Maybe in 2020?

How to Read a Fraction

Fraction notation and operations may be the most abstract math monsters our students meet until they get to algebra. Before we can explain those frustrating fractions, we teachers need to go back to the basics for ourselves…

#3

A dark horse in third place! I never expected this post to draw much interest.

Puzzle: Factoring Trinomials

My high school class ended the year with a review of multiplying and factoring simple polynomials. We played a matching game, and then I gave them this puzzle worksheet…

#2

A perennial favorite: widely adaptable, easy to learn, and kids enjoy it.

The Game That Is Worth 1,000 Worksheets

Have you and your children been struggling to learn the math facts? The game of Math Card War is worth more than a thousand math drill worksheets, letting you build your children’s calculating speed in a no-stress, no-test way…

#1

A well-deserving winner, with activities for preschool through middle school.

30+ Things to Do with a Hundred Chart

Are you looking for creative ways to help your children study math? Even without a workbook or teacher’s manual, your kids can learn a lot about numbers. Just spend an afternoon playing around with a hundred chart…

CREDITS: “Sparkling 2019” photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash.

Playing with Math @ Math Hombre Blog

I can’t believe I’ve fallen so far behind in my blogging! Life happens to us all, doesn’t it?

But here is something you won’t want to miss.

Check out the new Playful Math Blog Carnival at Math Hombre blog. John put together a great collection of number puzzles, math games, stories, and math art:

It’s like a free online monthly magazine of mathematical adventures.

Enjoy!

Click here to go read the carnival blog

Do You Want More Ways to Play with Math?

Past carnivals are still full of mathy treasure. See them all on Pinterest:

And if you’re a blogger, be sure to submit your blog post for next month’s carnival!

Playing with a Hundred Chart #35: The Number Grid Game

This is a pretty simple game, but it makes a nice variation on the Race-to-100 game for young children who need to work on counting by tens from any number.

See the Number Grid Game (PDF)

How to Play

You’ll need a 6-sided die, a hundred chart (printables here), and a small token to mark each player’s square. A crumpled bit of colored construction paper works well as a token.

Take turns rolling the die. If you roll:

  • 1: Move either 1 or 10 squares, your choice.
  • 2: Move either 2 or 20 squares.
  • 3–6: Move that number of squares.

The first player to reach the final square by exact count wins the game.

Variation #1: For a shorter game, the first player to move off the board wins. You don’t have to hit the final square by exact count.

Variation #2: For a longer game, if you cannot move your full roll forward, you must move backward. Rolling 6 is a “wild card” — you can move any number from one to ten.

Variation #3: Count down. Start at the highest number on your chart and subtract each roll, moving toward zero. If you have a chart like the original shown above, a player whose move goes past zero into negatives will add the number on their next roll.

More Ways to Play on a Hundred Chart

A hundred chart can provide mathematical play from preschool to high school. The list on my blog began many years ago with seven activities, games, and logic puzzles.

Wow, has it grown!

Discover 30+ Things To Do with a Hundred Chart