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These two group activities use mathematical reasoning - one is numerical, one geometric.

Consecutive Numbers

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Exploring Wild & Wonderful Number Patterns

EWWNP means Exploring Wild and Wonderful Number Patterns Created by Yourself! Investigate what happens if we create number patterns using some simple rules.

Bean Bags for Bernard's Bag

Age 7 to 11
Challenge Level

Bean Bags for Bernard's Bag

Some years ago I suddenly had to do some maths with some boys who were a bit turned off about it. If it had been today in England they would have said, "It's not cool!"

There were two small PE hoops nearby and some small bean bags. I put down the hoops as you see:

I collected eight of the bean bags. "Do they really have beans in?" I asked. They did not know and neither did I. Never mind.

I suggested that we put them in the hoops. Four ended up being in the blue hoop, six in the red hoop so that two were in the overlap.

We went on to talk about how many were in the blue and how many were in the red and how the ones in the middle seemed to be counted twice. Try this for yourself.

We tried putting the bean bags in the hoops in a different way and each time we counted how many were in each of the two hoops.

Well it was time to use the yellow hoop that had been around:

I suggested we made sure that there were four in the blue, five in the red and six in the yellow. So we all tried and then ...?

Well have a go at this one.

Now the investigation is to take this much further. Try to find as many ways as you can for having those numbers $4$, $5$ and $6$ using just eight objects. I guess you'll need to record your results somehow so that you do not do the same ones twice!

Have you found yourself using some kind of 'system' or 'method' for going from one arrangement to the next? Try to explain it if you have.

When you're pretty sure you cannot find any more, check yours with a friend and see if there are any new ones!

As always we then have to ask "I wonder what would happen if ...?"

This month it's very easy to invent new ideas, for example, "I wonder what would happen if I used a different number of objects?" You could go about this in order and try six objects and then seven, you've done eight so move on to nine ...

Any other ideas?

Why do this problem?

This activity is especially good to do with a small number of pupils. This will give them confidence to talk with each other and discuss their ideas. It is amazing how many different ways of approaching the problem they will find.
One teacher commented that "ALL children loved this!  It was good for developing understanding of Venn diagrams and recording in a systematic way".

Possible approach

Introducing this activity as described in the problem with hoops and bean bags would be a good idea, if possible. This might mean going outside, taking over the school hall, or pushing all the tables to the edge of the classroom to create floor space. You could start with just two hoops and eight bean bags, and ask one child to put the bean bags in the hoops however they like. Ask questions about this distribution of bean bags, such as the number in each hoop and the number in the overlap. It's important at this stage to listen to the pupils so that you can assess their understanding of the overlapping area.

Introduce a third hoop and set up the challenge. Invite children to work in pairs or groups to find at least one solution. Give them the choice as to what they use in terms of equipment: some may want hoops, some may be happy to draw representations. However they work at the problem, encourage them to record their solution/s somehow so they don't forget.

Once some solutions have been found, bring the group together again to share (and check!) the answers they've got so far. At this point, you can challenge them to find ALL the solutions. Give them a chance to talk in their pairs about how they might do this before sharing some suggestions. Draw attention to the methods which use some sort of system, so that there is less chance that solutions will be missed out.

This investigation would make an engaging and attractive display, and you could encourage learners to describe the system they devised so that anyone looking at the display would be able to follow it.

(This activity would also be worth doing as staff CPD.)

Key questions

How many bean bags are in this space?
Are there the correct number in the red hoop etc.?

Possible extension

Simply ask the pupils to suggest extensions by asking "I wonder what would happen if we ...?"

Possible further work which leads to material for the exceptionally mathematically able

Go to Plants teachers' notes

Possible support

You could provide this sheet for those having difficulty in recording. It contains the three hoops printed six times.