' Dr Ell's Math Blog: Mathland Weddings

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mathland Weddings

     This game introduces the ideas of even and odd. The photos here use white Cuisenaire rods, but literally any kind of manipulative will work as well. Note that the game does not require that the child already understand numbers in the formal sense.
     Given a handful of blocks, demonstrate pairing until all the pieces are used up. If everything pairs, the group is ‘even’. If one is left over, the group is ‘odd’. Five year old Rebekah suggested that the ‘extra’ block was the ‘priest’ performing the wedding ceremony. So, if there’s a ‘priest’, the group is odd. No ‘priest’ means the group is even.                                       
This group is even. There is no left-over block. The second group is odd. There is a 'priest' to perform the ceremony. The third group is also odd.

     For children who can count to five and can understand the notion that ’five’ is the number of these blocks, you can introduce the idea that ‘five’ is always an odd number. Your little person can experiment with a variety of objects to verify that five toy cars, after the pairing process, will still leave one car left over. The same process can be used to examine ‘four’ which is always even and ‘three’ or any other number. The number ‘one’ might be a challenge but makes for interesting discussion. In Rebekah’s case, the reasoning went something like this: “Nobody married nobody but there was still a priest in the church so it was odd.” We didn’t bother with ‘zero’ at that time, but if we had, the discussion would probably have come to a conclusion something like this: “It’s always odd if there’s a priest and if there’s no priest it’s even. So if nobody marries nobody and there’s no priest either, then its even.”

This is a more challenging group because of it's size.
     There are many other possible variations on this game. The priest might be a rabbi or preacher instead. Or, since little boys don’t always get into the ‘wedding’ thing, the whole game can be turned into making pairs of shoes or boots for imaginary people, soldiers, whatever. When the blocks all pair, the group is even. A left-over boot means the group is odd.

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