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!

Morning Coffee – 4 Nov 2019

Morning Coffee image

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

Here are a few stories to read with your Monday morning coffee:

“Games aren’t just about practice and fluency. My favorite games create opportunities for learning, too. They spark discourse, promote the use of strategies, and allow students to dig into the mathematics.”

—Jenna Laib
The Simple-but-High-Leverage Game Collection: Making Games Routine

  • Have you read Pam Harris’s Development of Mathematical Reasoning series? Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Well worth your time!

“The teacher’s role is to help students change the way they think, in increasingly sophisticated ways. The goal is not answers. The goal is development. We don’t need students who can just answer a multiplication question, we need students who can reason multiplicatively.”

—Pam Harris
The Development of Mathematical Reasoning

CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by Kira auf der Heide via Unsplash. “Morning Coffee” post format inspired by Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader.

New Math Board Game: MULTI on Kickstarter

If the math classic The Product Game got together with Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe, this game would be their child.

According to game creator Federico Chialvo, “MULTI is a fantastic 2-player math game designed with the joy of mathematics in mind. This game is so fun your kids won’t want to stop playing, and neither will you!”

Originally designed for students in 2nd-5th grade, MULTI helps children develop fluency with multiplication facts and the relationship between multiples and factors. Even better, the rich strategy and gameplay can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

If you want to play math with an elementary-age child, check out the Kickstarter:

Click Here for the MULTI Game on Kickstarter

“Mathematics is a polarizing topic! For some, it is a fountain of wonder, beauty, and intrigue. For others, it is a cold dark thing, something to be avoided or even feared. Yet, my experience has shown that everyone can find joy in mathematics when it is presented in the right way.”

—Federico Chialvo
MULTI – Math Board Game – Fun For All Ages!

Morning Coffee – 28 Oct 2019

Morning Coffee image

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

Here are a few stories to enjoy with your Monday morning coffee:

“When you’re working every day, you’re not thinking, ‘What impact is this going to have on the world?’ You’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this right.’”

—Gladys West
quoted in Dr. Gladys West: The Black Woman Behind GPS Technology

  • I like to keep a quick game in reserve for spare time in my homeschool co-op class. Kent Haines explains Sprouts and suggests ways to launch math discussions.

“I don’t get irritated by these mistakes. I desperately wait for such mistakes. Yes! Because I think it is a golden opportunity for the teacher to spot a student thinking this way. It presents just the right context and time for driving an enriching mathematical conversation in the whole class.”

—Rupesh Gesota
Part-2: Re-learning and Enjoying Polynomial Division with students

“To teach students SSS congruence without pointing out why this is so interesting is harmful for two reasons. First of all, this is an amazing result. It is the our job to point out amazing results! Triangles are rigid figures in a way that other polygons are not.”

—Rachel Chou
Teaching the Distributive Property

CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by Kira auf der Heide via Unsplash. “Morning Coffee” post format inspired by Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader.

Morning Coffee – 4 Oct 2019

Morning Coffee image

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

Here are a few stories to read with your Friday morning coffee:

  • In the spirit of cracking eggs to make omelets, Michael Pershan cracks open some of the ideas around Equations and Equivalence and relational thinking.

“My experience is that when I have vague hope that children will learn something from an activity that is related to the mathematics I want them to learn, they usually don’t.”

—David Wees
Hands on or minds on?

CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by Kira auf der Heide via Unsplash. “Morning Coffee” post format inspired by Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader.

Morning Coffee – 30 Sept 2019

Morning Coffee image

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

Here are a few stories to read with your Monday morning coffee:

  • Kathy Iwanicki’s students explore an unsolved math puzzle: the Hailstone Sequence. I think my co-op class might enjoy this activity, too.
  • If you want to understand how number concepts develop through the school years, Graham Fletcher’s Progression Videos are a great place to start. Watch, re-watch, and learn.

“Learning occurs when we get something wrong and have to correct it. This is analogous to the much better known fact that when we subject our bodies to physical strain, say by walking, jogging, or lifting weights, the muscles we strain become stronger — we gain greater fitness.

“Indeed, the learning is better if the correction occurs some time after the error is made. Stewing for a while in frustration at being wrong, and not seeing how to fix it, turns out to be a good thing. Cracking your ego is an unavoidable part of learning.”

—Keith Devlin
On making omelets and learning math

CREDITS: Feature photo (top) by Kira auf der Heide via Unsplash. “Morning Coffee” post format inspired by Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader.