Suggested Student Math Circle Activities

These are a collection of activities with a lot of additional materials that make them great activities for first time Math Circle leaders.

Mondrian Art Puzzles

You’re Mondrian’s mathematical boss. Instead of allowing Mondrian to randomly draw rectangles and colors -you lay out requirements: 1) Mondrian must cover an N by N canvas entirely with rectangles. 2) Every rectangle in the painting must have different dimensions. 3) Mondrian must use as few colors as possible, and rectangles with the same color cannot touch one another.

Under these rules, Mondrian must try to minimize his score. A painting’s score is the area of its largest rectangle minus the area of its smallest rectangle.

Mind Reading With Math

For the Math Mind Reading Trick, you’ll need a volunteer who’s willing to have their mind read. The person performing the trick holds out the four cards and askes their volunteer to pick a number (whole numbers only, no fractions allowed!) between 1 and 15 and keep it a secret. Next, the mind-reader asks the volunteer if their number is on the cards one-by-one. The volunteer answers the questions with yes or no answers, and with some magic and a little math, the mind-reader figures out their number!

Queen’s Move

Students will explore a game between two players moving a chess Queen from place to place on a square grid. The Queen may move any number of spaces to the left, any number of spaces downward, and any number of spaces on the downward-left pointing diagonal. Each player takes turns using these moves. Whoever gets the Queen to the bottom-left square first wins!

Bubbling Cauldrons

Place our numbers into the cauldrons in ascending order – you can choose which cauldron each one goes in. However, if two numbers in one cauldron add up to a third number in that same cauldron, they bubble up and cause an explosion! This means that all the numbers, leave the cauldrons, and you must start all over again.

Our goal is to find the largest number we can place in our cauldrons without them exploding… do you think you’re up for this daunting task?

Skyscrapers

Skyscrapers come in so many different sizes! Sometimes you can’t see small skyscrapers if tall ones are in front of them. Using clues about how many skyscrapers you can see from each side you look at them, can you figure out the layout of the entire city?

Gerrymandering

Merriam Webster defines gerrymandering as “the practice of dividing or arranging a territorial unit into election districts in a way that gives one political party an unfair advantage in elections.” This activity tries to make sense of that definition using a few examples.

Scroll to Top