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Number 2 in a series of posts dedicated to playful exploration of math concepts, incorporating visual arts, experimentation, discussion, collaboration, and above all fun!

This activity can take any length appropriate for your classroom/lesson, from a 10-minute warm-up to an extended 1-hour exercise.

Recommended for Grades 2-4

Skills practiced
• Collaborative conversations
o making statements and providing supporting ideas and details
o taking turns
o listening and responding to statements from peers
• Designing multiple approaches and interpretations of the same topic
• Geometric concepts
o shape qualities: angles, edges/sides, corners/vertices, size
o names and definitions of shapes

With students working in groups of 4-6, ask them to answer the question: “What’s a square plus a triangle?” You may hear responses similar to these:

• I don’t know.
• What do you mean?
• I don’t get it?
• Huh?

If confusion reigns too uncomfortably (bwahahahaha!) break down the question into its parts:

• What’s a square?
• What’s a triangle?
• What happens when you put them together?

Allow students to be confused. Breathe. Try not to lead students toward any pre-conceived answers. Have groups discuss the question and encourage them to explain their confusion and ask questions to better “get it.”

• Do you want us to show you?
• In a drawing?
• With numbers?

Allow groups to come up with present their answers in any form, such as drawings, multi-person shapes, number sentences, or?

Next, have students explain their answers or interpretations of other group’s answers, using prompts such as:

• “Our answer is ____________ because..”
• “I think they chose/made their answer because..”

Encourage multiple explanations of the same answer. Ask others to add to explanations by pointing out additional details through words and pictures.

Cut-Out Illustration
Cut construction papers of different colors into squares and triangles of different sizes. Triangles can also vary by side length (equilateral, isosceles, and scalene) and angles (right, obtuse, and acute). What complex (or compound) shape can be created by combining 1 square and 1 triangle?

Students draw additional answers, different than those made with pre-cut shapes.

Ask students to create a tree. A robot wearing a hat. A house. A compound shape containing 3 triangles. A unique shape, different than all others in the class?

• Is there only one correct answer to the question? Why/why not?
• Was any answer wrong? Why/why not?
• How was this activity a math activity?