The Marshmallow Challenge
I work with the 8-9 age group at camp. These campers are your average group of kids from a third/fourth grade classroom. Some are very interested in math and physics and others aren't very interested at all.
The funny thing is through doing the marshmallow challenged we tricked these kids into doing math and physics at camp.
We split the campers into groups of 5 and then gave the students 20 strands of uncooked spaghetti, an arms length of string and tape, and scissors. Then we explained to them that they had exactly 20 minutes to build a tower/sculpture to hold up a marshmallow as high as possible. Whichever group of campers created the tower to hold their marshmallow the highest off the ground or table won! Those were the only rules/guidance we gave the students. We didn't give them the marshmallow until 15 of the 20 minutes were up.
I was very impressed with the things these kids came up with. This group of students made a pyramid like structure with the spaghetti. Next they attached 4 stacked spaghetti on top of that pyramid sticking straight up. They tied the string to the top bar of the tent we were under and then stuck the marshmallow on top of the vertical spaghetti.
They next used the remaining spaghetti to create a pyramid figure on top of the cube to hold up their marshmallow.
I think they also ended up taping the string to the table and tying it to the top for more stability. This structure was a little wobbly, but it still held up the marshmallow in the end.
These girls worked great together and told me they "really like cubes." I'm not sure where their love for cubes came from, but I thought it was quite hilarious and cute.
I was very impressed by the construction of this figure as well. These campers are all-stars!
I thought this was awesome. These kids had to problem solve to find out how to fix their falling marshmallow and they were able to persevere and find a solution.
There were 2 groups I wasn't able to picture because their structures didn't make it very far. The first had a problem with an angered student continuously knocking down the structure whenever it wasn't working out. The other group made a very very tall spaghetti tower that was just a single one sticking out of the ground taped to more as it builded up. As you might guess this tower didn't make it very far.
I think it was exciting for the students to have free reign on building their spaghetti towers. Often at camp we like to provide a ton of structure throughout the day with activities and rules for safety and such. This activity gave the students freedom to use their creativity and explore their strengths. I think that children crave these opportunities and this is why they got so engaged in the activity.
I think this activity could be extended by providing either more materials or less materials. The marshmallow could also be substituted with a heavier object to provide for a much more challenging task.
Anyway thanks for reading about the math we did at the YMCA. It was a ton of fun and I was glad to be a part of this activity at camp.