Happy Pi Day! 3.14 and the Game of Get 20

Illustration by Charlie Powell
3.14 – Albert Einstein’s birthday and National Pi Day!  Illustration by Charlie Powell
I love a good play on words, and numbers, and anything that is creatively clever.  Pi day ranks pretty high on my creatively clever scale, but did you know that it’s actually a nationally recognized holiday?  Really! It’s official. The date March 14 (that is, 3/14) was designated Pi Day by House Resolution 224 of the first session of the 111th Congress of the United States. It begins “Whereas the Greek letter (Pi) is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter,” and is followed by 11 more whereases before it resolves to support the designation of “Pi Day” to encourage “schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about Pi and engage them about the study of mathematics.”
So I thought a newsletter focused on Math activities would be appropriate as a blog post.  Here are a few of my favorite team building math activities.
Get 20 

I came up with this game when I was writing Playing With a Full Deck, 52 Team Activities Using a Deck of Playing Cards.  Invite your participants to get into groups of 4 or 5. Give each participant one card. If you have a group of 4 people, give one person two cards. Each group will need 5 cards of different values to play the game. Face cards and the number 10 card are all values of 10, so make sure each group has 5 cards of different values.

Ask the group to use any math function (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and create an equation using the 5 numbers on their cards that equates out to the number 20. For example, if one group had a cluster of cards that are these values: a King (10), Ace (1 or 11), 5, 6 and 8, the group would rearrange the cards until they created an equation that works.  They would then explain how they equal 20:   a King plus an Ace would be 11, 11 plus 8 equals 19, 19 plus 6 equals 25. 25 minus 5 equals 20.  Voila!
To this day I have not met 5 cards of 5 different values where I was not able to find an equation that equaled the number 20.  Some card combinations are harder than others to find an equation though, so if a group is really challenged, you can exchange a card or two out so they have new numbers to work with.  I usually challenge them to keep working at their original set, and make comments like, ‘Wow, you were dealt a really hard hand.’ and of course relate this back to the real world in the debrief.  Some groups get easy hands, “Um, we added all of the values together and got 20…”  If this happens, I then challenge them to see how many different equations they can come up with using the same cards. Some groups have been able to come up with 6 or more equations! (The record is actually 16 equations using the same 5 cards!)  This allows groups to continue working even if they are ‘done.’ This will also allow those groups that are not as quick to have the time they need to be successful at finding their equation. After each group has at least one equation that will equal 20 ask them to choose their favorite equation. Each group can then theatrically present their equation to the large group.  I love this, because it allows for different group members to show their talents.  For example, if one participant did not assist with coming up with the equation, they may shine as an exuberant ‘parenthesis’ when showing the other groups their equation.  Can you figure out this group’s Get 20 equation?
Wagon Wheel Tag
Wagon Wheel Tag is another game you can do some creative math with.  Click here for the Game Instructions, and Google Snow Unit Circle for more ideas.
p.s.  March 14 is also Albert Einstein’s birthday, which is one of those fun, crazy coincidences as well!
Have fun out there!
Michelle Cummings
Owner/Trainer/Big Wheel
Training Wheels