I’d like to publicize two simple math games for kids that should be more widely known. Both games are hands-on and immediately engaging. Both lead to a number of important mathematical concepts. Both involve a start state, a goal state, and rules for how you can alter a state. And, as you’ll see, there’s no chance in either game.
For each, I’ll first describe a “warm-up” version which kids should begin with.
Materials: sticks of different lengths
Start state: 5 sticks in a row arranged from shortest to longest
Goal state: rearranged so the sticks go from longest to shortest
Rules: For each move, you are allowed to pick any 3 adjacent sticks and rotate their positions among themselves. Each stick must move to the position of one of the other two sticks you’ve chosen; none of the 3 sticks you’ve chosen may stay put. You may use as many moves as you wish.
After the warm-up, start with 10 sticks arranged from shortest to longest.
Materials: pencil and paper
Start state: the numbers 1 through 5 in a row
Goal state: five 3s in a row
Rules: For each move, you are allowed to pick any two numbers and change them by adding 1 to one of them and subtracting 1 from the other. You may use as many moves as you wish.
Have Fun and Good luck!
Note: The “no chance” here is not exactly the same as the “no chance” in the really fun book Games of No Chance, edited by Richard Nowakowski.