Copyright © University of Cambridge. All rights reserved.

'Stick Images' printed from

Show menu

Stick Images

You have to complete the task yourself but with support and advice from other members of the team of four. (So get three others to do this activity)
A nearby adult can assess how well the team is good at,
  •     helping others to do things for themselves
  •     responding to the needs of others - everybody helps everybody
  •     explaining by telling how.
As you see above, you need to arrange the desks and some props so that everyone can see everyone else but no one can see what anyone else is building.
One possibility is for the designer to face the other three team members and make the design inside a box whilst team members try to recreate the design behind books or folders used as screens.
Choose someone in the group to be the designer.

You will need four sets of lolly sticks (or similar) - up to 10 in each set.
Give one set of lolly sticks to the designer and one set to each of the other team members.

The designer creates a lolly stick design so that it is hidden from the rest of the team but as s/he makes the design, s/he explains what it looks like so that the rest of the team can make a copy of the same design.

Team members can ask questions about the design at any time and the designer answers in as helpful a way as possible.
When a team member thinks they have a completed design, they ask the designer to check. If it is right they can then aid the designer in answering questions. If they do not have the correct design the task continues.

Remember that all help has to be given without sight of the enquirer's design.

At any point the task can be brought to an end to discuss the success of the questioning and answering, and how it helped or hindered completion of the task.

Why do this problem?

This task focuses on the creating of shapes and patterns using line segments and the emphasis is on using accurate mathematical language to describe position and orientation. The learners need to listen carefully to follow the instructions they are given or explain clearly and precisely what they do with the lolly sticks.

The task encourages the development of team-building skills such as helping others to do things for themselves, responding to the needs of others, encouraging everybody to help each other and explaining to each other by telling how. (This is one of a series of problems designed to develop learners' team working skills. Other tasks in the series can be found by going to this article.)

Possible approach

A team has four or more members.  You may wish to use an adult as an observer.

Before starting this practical activity you might wish to ask each member of the group to draw their design, ready for when they act as designer for the rest of the team. Using squared paper may support the production of more manageable designs.

The focus of attention for the teams is asking, explaining and helping each other. The completion of the task, whilst rewarding for all concerned, is not the main purpose of the activity.

If learners need some support with their positional language, a word list can be found here.
When teams have finished working on the task it is important that they spend time discussing in groups, and then as a whole class, how well they worked as a team. They can consider what they have learned from the experience and what they would do differently next time, particularly in terms of how to ask questions and answer them effectively. Your own observations, as well as those of observers, might inform the discussions.

Key questions

Were there any questions that someone else asked that you found helpful?
How well did you listen to others in your group?
How easy was it to use the answers to the questions that were asked?
Was there an answer that you found particularly helpful?

Possible extension

Learners may like to try one of the other 'Explaining How' tasks. Other team-building tasks can be found by going to this article.

Possible support

Other team-building tasks can be found by going to this article.