Math Magic – Magic Transformations Game

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Today’s game comes from Julia Brodsky, the creative force behind The Art of Inquiry math circle in Maryland. Started several years ago by Julia as a thinking circle for her own children and their friends, it grew quickly. Julia teaches children the skills of solving non-standard open-ended problems using critical thinking.

While Julia’s thinking circle is for elementary school age children, she is sharing a game for younger children that she played when her kids were smaller. Without further ado, here’s the Magic Transformations game.




Key words

Pattern, prediction, transformation, unknown, input, output

How to Play

Prepare a big “wizard” hat and a “magic wand.” Prepare a set of small toy figurines (Safari Wild Tube, animal counters, matchbox cars, or something like that).

Show a toy to a child. Turn the hat upside-down. Put a toy under the hat. Say a spell and touch the hat with a magic wand. Put your hand under the hat and take what was hidden under the hat beforehand out of the hat. Voila – the toy turns into a different toy!

Ages and Stages

Baby: Start with just one item. The babies are just learning about the predictability of the events. They love when nothing new happens! The doggie goes in, the doggie gets out – let the baby watch it enough times, and watch the baby’s enjoyment. Just as the baby starts losing interest in the game, add another item – let the doggie turn into something else, different in size and color, and watch your baby’s reaction.

Toddler: Ask the toddler not to touch the hat – explain, that if the hat is touched, the magic will break. Decide on the rules of the transformation, but do not let your toddler know that rule – i.e the 4-legged animals always turn into 2-legged animals, and 2-legged animals always turn into toy cars. Make sure your hat has enough resources inside, and do not forget to “recharge” your hat after each manipulation, as needed. Ask your toddler to do something to distract his/her attention during this moment. See if your toddler will figure out the pattern, and will be able to predict the next transformation result.

Older child: Show the trick with the hat to an older child. Wait till the child figures out the transformation rule (you may come up with a 3- or 4-step rule). Now, ask the child to come up with another rule, and try to figure out that rule.

This is a perfect opportunity to use all those little toys children accumulate and love to play with. And how about using cartoon time to get inspired for more magic transformation play with this Moomin story?

If you haven’t yet, check out Art of Inquiry website, watch some math circle videos and try your hand at sample problems.

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