Math is Play

I’ve seen a few times on Twitter the analogy:

Reading is to English class as

Play is to Math class

I love it! An important part of becoming a mathematician is to play with math! It is important to me that students play with math in their own way as part of the class. This is why I love Sam’s Explore Math activities, which I make an occasional requirement in my classes.

I especially make sure to have students playing with math anytime we have a day that is not a normal instructional day. For instance, this past week, all juniors were away visiting local colleges. So I had a tiny class with the handful of sophomores who are in that class.

We started the period by playing Set (often an easy hit with students!).

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 9.16.00 PM

If you haven’t seen someone play cooperative 3D (or 4D!) Set, you should check out Amie’s stuff!

My new favorite playful math activity to do with students (and teachers! and admin! and parents!) is Manifold. If you haven’t seen them before, basically you get an 8×8 grid like this one:

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 9.15.28 PM

and you have to fold it in a way so that one side looks like this:

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 9.15.36 PM

and the other side looks like this:

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 9.15.40 PM

When you buy it, you get a stack of 100 different designs, that go into increasing difficulty. Here’s one of the more complicated ones (level 26):

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 9.15.45 PM

Anyone I’ve ever given these to can’t stop themselves from tinkering. It has an easy entry point, but can get difficult quickly. My students loved them and in a short period of time (maybe 20mins) one of them was tearing through them:

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 9.15.53 PM


I hope we all keep playing in math!


One thought on “Math is Play

  1. Sameer Shah February 12, 2019 / 9:54 am

    Randomly, I brought a pack of Manifolds on my trip with students to Greece. They were curious when I started working on one, one asked for a sheet, then more, then more. Students were getting up to the highest level difficulty!!! It was beyond awesome.


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