We have in our house a thing called the “Multiplication Machine”. It is a flash-cardy sort of thing. The multiplication facts are written on top of a 9×9 array of spring-loaded buttons. You press one and the button pops up, revealing the product. You can buy such a thing at your nearest teacher supply store. Ours came from Lakeshore Learning.
Talking Math with Your Kids is dedicated to helping parents and other caregivers to identify the mathematical opportunities afforded by everyday life, so we will not discuss here the traditional, intended use of this product (which is drilling and reviewing multiplication facts).
No, I want to talk about this thing as a toy.
Tabitha was hard at work pressing buttons on the Multiplication Machine the other evening. When I peeked in on her, I saw a scene that looked an awful lot like the one below.
She was playing with the arrangement of up and down buttons, not with the multiplication facts written on them. Patterns are tons of fun. So I went with it.
We developed the up, up, up, down pattern. We went across each row from left to right, top row to bottom row, as you would read a book.
We developed its opposite—Down, down, down, up.
We developed the Up, up, up, up, down pattern. This proved much more difficult for Tabitha, as she could not subitize the four ups. She counted them on her fingers, which she also needed for pressing buttons. She worked it out, though.
Before executing this last one, we noticed the right-to-left diagonals we had gotten from the Up, up, up, down pattern and predicted what we thought would happen when three ups became four. She correctly predicted the left-to-right diagonals, but I do not know why she predicted this.
We have not yet investigated the down-down-up pattern together, but I suspect she will get a kick out of it.
There are many more cool patterns to play with here. A few ideas that I am sure we’ll explore in the coming weeks:
- What will happen with lots of different combinations of ups and downs?
- What if we do columns instead of rows?
- Are there any patterns where you cannot tell whether the person did rows or columns?
- What if we follow a path back and forth across the rows, instead of starting at the left-hand side of each row?
- What if go right-to-left? Or bottom-to-top?