Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thrifted Math

Here's something you probably don't know about me -- I've got something of a golden touch when I'm out thrifting.  Not always, but I do have a track record that is (to me) quite impressive!  See what you think about these highlights from the last year:

A down jacket, perfect fit, perfect color, just needed a wash and it was brand new again; I paid $4 and am on my second season with it still in great condition

A Leap Frog talking globe, like-new, retailing for $350; I paid $4 and the kid learned her continents and is onto countries, plus she makes up her own dances to the 'music of the world' option.

A sturdy elementary microscope with three lenses and swivel eye piece, like-new, retailing for $160; I paid $5 and, although we haven't really used it much, I just know it'll come in handy at some point.

We also get a lot of great science, social studies, history and art resource books at our library's resale bookstore.  And, just a week or so ago I found two old math games at Goodwill!  The first one is Scan, a "split second matching game" from the 1970's.  I found a comparable version it online offered for $50.  I got it for $1.99 and we've already had a ton of fun with it!!!

When I saw it on the shelf I immediately recognized it as mathematical in some way. There are four categories on each card: color (square, circle, square, circle), position (four black dots on a 4x4 grid), pattern (different combinations of x's and o's) and shape (various irregular purple polygons!). 

Our game didn't come with directions and at first I thought it the point was to match all four categories at once.  I even went so far as to try and analyze and sort the cards so that I could understand how it might work.  Here's one attempt at sorting by grid pattern: 

Ultimately, no pattern emerged and I also determined there were no 4-way matches to be made.  I'm not very good with combinatorics but even I can figure out (albeit after a bit of struggle) that you need more than 26 cards to have a match for every possible combination and permutation.  (Anyone want to figure it out?!  Just kidding.) 

I went online and found the directions and was relieved to find that you only have to match one category on the center card to a card on the table to win the round.  The box said it was for ages 9 to adult, but I decided to try with my 7.5 year old.  Initially I thought maybe I'd have to half-size the deck for the first few games so she'd have a chance to get the hang of it but for some reason I put out the full deck on our first game and, what do you know, she beat the pants off of me! 

I found the next game about a week after I found Scan.  It is not branded so I can only describe it with this picture:

Well, actually, as I was editing this post I noticed the company name Garlic Press in the bottom left corner.  Apparently they're still in business and have other similar two-sided 'self-check' math fact puzzles.  Essentially, you piece together this round puzzle by doing your multiplication facts...

...which, incidentally, are not in any particular order around the ring, which is a great feature.  When you've placed all the pieces you flip it over to see if you got them right.  If you did, you have a picture that makes sense.  If you didn't you have a good giggle about the parrot's beak and wing being in the wrong places and try again. 

I'm not that big on drilling math facts, but I thought it'd be interesting to try and a nice addition to our other work even at the sky high thrifting price of $4.99.  What do you know -- the puzzles are fun!  My daughter has only done the 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 10 times table puzzles so far but she's motivated to do about one per day.  I mean, who wouldn't want to solve your 8 times tables if you got a cute little tiger cub at the end of it?!

You use the same procedure to solve each puzzle, which makes me optimistic that she'll start developing some reasoning strategies around the skip counting she doesn't already know backward and forward -- like 11 times something is similar to 1 times something.  Or, if I do the 0, 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 times first in any puzzle, the rest are not hard to figure out. 

The multiplication puzzles might be a little hard to make yourself, but if I knew about Scan and couldn't find the game itself I'd totally make a version myself with my kid or other students!  The Scan cards are just four quadrants with a basic concept and pattern rule for each quadrant.  Also, you need two copies of each card. to play the game.  It's essentially a quick-paced matching game for big kids;  I think upper elementary kids might really enjoy the challenge of making their own versions and variations.


  1. Have you heard of Hooda Math Games yet? at HoodaMath.com, Check out the featured math games.

  2. Yay, those are awesome finds! We must not have thrift shops as good as yours. Or I'm there too late for all the good finds.


Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!


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