Rainbow Maths Sticks – Guest Blog from Creative Star Learning

Alistair Bryce-CleggUncategorized89 Comments

If you haven’t come across Creative Star Learning, then it is a definite to add to your blog list. It is hosted by the lovely Juliet Robertson who has some brilliant ideas for outdoor learning and play. I asked her if she would share a post on my blog. I am pleased to say she said ‘yes’! So, here it is.

Thank you Juliet!

The mathematical potential of a stick never ceases to amaze me. Here’s my latest idea which is remarkably simple and came about owing to overhearing someone mention colour coding. You get some sticks. You paint the ends different colours. You play with them. You explore the potential for maths. That’s it. Experiment! Now if you have given this post a quick glance and assumed it’s for the Early Years then stop. Look again. These sticks can be used in a variety of challenging ways well beyond the Early Years.

Cut sticks

I decided to go for pencil sized twigs. So I cut them overwinter so that they are green wood. The idea here is that the sticks are stronger and will last longer. However there’s no reason why children can’t go and gather sticks which have fallen on the ground. This ensures a higher degree of ownership. You could use lolly (popsicle) sticks but they are a poor relative. Believe me.

Peeled sticks

The ends need to be peeled. This is a job for a potato peeler. It’s as easy as peeling carrots provided there are no knots in the green wood. Little children can easily manage this task with support to get going. With dead wood the job is more difficult. I wouldn’t bother peeling in this instance.

From here the sticks can be painted at either end. I went for rainbow colours as they work well together. The first photo in this posts shows the entire collection. It’s based on a dominoes pack. I also added in a “rogue” silver and gold stick. They are a bit like the joker in a pack of cards. Part of the attraction is that the sticks are all slightly different lengths and widths. This non-uniformity adds to the interest, challenge and creativity.

Zigzag sticks

Next, just have fun. Children will play with these in different ways. They may not see them as a pack of maths sticks. Little children will pick them up and carry them around an outdoor space. Some children may turn them into mixers in a patch of mud. That doesn’t matter. Let them play with the sticks in their own way. And you play with them in yours!

Star Sticks

Here’s some of the things I had fun doing.In the photo below I explored the relationships between primary and secondary colours. Can you work out what I have done and how to recognise the complementary colours?

Primary triangles

I’ve blogged about playing pick up sticks before. The addition of colour adds an extra challenge. If each colour is is assigned a numerical value, then suddenly decisions have to be made about which is the best stick to pick up. Oh! And if there are different colours at either end, then the numerical values needed added together. Alternatively, each colour can represent key numbers for place value, e.g. red = units, orange = tens, yellow = hundreds, etc.

Pick up sticks

Logic games work well too. In the activity below, the placement of each stick needs to be justified. That’s the only rule, really.

Logic sticks

Traditional patterns and shapes can also be made. Don’t forget to play a game of colour dominoes too!

The Maze

The possibilities are endless… what would your children do? And you? Go on… give them a go… You know you want to…

The Cube


89 Comments on “Rainbow Maths Sticks – Guest Blog from Creative Star Learning”

  1. I love this idea – I will be including it in my Maths Hub presentation to EYFS teachers next week – and promoting the creator of course!

  2. Great idea!! I love that the children can create their own maths sticks, giving them more of a personal touch. Will definitely be giving these a go. Thank you!

  3. What a fabulous idea and ideal for the small outdoor learning area, where we are dearly trying to source creative provision for all of the learning areas.

  4. Such a great but simple idea, completely forgotten about pick up sticks, i used to love that game. Definately trying this activity this half term.

  5. Brilliant idea!
    Thanks for sharing, if you need me I’ll be in the garden searching for twigs…

  6. What a fab idea! I have the stick book but did not see this activity in it! Can’t wait to try it with my class.

  7. I love these and will be taking my class out looking for sticks next week. By the way, I’m one of the hands in the final photo – great outdoor course with Juliet and others.

  8. What a great idea. Its always nice to see others ideas. The children always collect sticks, using them in the mud kitchen or for painting, but this will lead them to other skills. Thank you.

  9. I saw this on the original post and have added it to my maths planning with reception this week – so much potential!

  10. What an awesome idea! I’ve been doing an activity with my students where they collect 9 similar length sticks and see how many triangles they can make with them. These ideas would be a great addition to our outdoor learning.

  11. Stick Man, oh Stick Man beware of the paint!
    What a wonderful idea with the simple stick – Pooh Bear wouldn’t want these being tossed into the river!

  12. These are absolutely wonderful. Off to collect pebbles with the other half this afternoon, wonder if sticks for these would be pushing it 🙂

  13. I’m already buzzing with ideas about different ways to use these sticks! They are perfect for little hands and can be used to develop mathematical ideas just as well for the mathematical genius in my class as well as all us ‘normal’ folk!! I’m just heading out with my secateurs…

  14. Love it love it – will definitely be doing if I’m not lucky enough to win!! And Juliets book sounds brill

  15. I love this idea so much I’ve pinned it on my Outdoor Learning board on Pinterest. Thanks Juliet (Creative Star Learning) and Alistair (ABC Does)

  16. Great idea, perfect for maths outdoors and will appeal to children who wouldn’t go near a maths activity indoors!

  17. Love it we did lots of outdoor maths with sticks before the Easter hols but these would extend those ideas further.

  18. What a fantastic idea that the children can get involved in, real ownership of their resources.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.