It was a great pleasure to be working with a couple of pupils I knew would accept any challenge I offered, so you won’t be surprised to know that we spent two or three sessions exploring all the ideas around Stars that I wrote about in several recent posts.
I may well have been the only teacher in the country disappointed that the end of the summer term was coming up fast, but there was still time for one further session. I really don’t think there’s any exploration more accessible and productive than the Tower of Hanoi. It’s intensely practical and visual and you need just two simple rules. I was using it with two very bright nine-yearolds, but I’ve used it both with teachers and with much younger children – one teacher used it with her Reception class “Baby Teddy can sit on Mummy Teddy’s lap or Daddy Teddy’s lap ….” and it worked a treat.
There’s so much to find that even now I’m still discovering new aspects, but it won’t take long to start wondering how many moves it takes to move a stack of 3, a stack of 4, a stack of 5, …., or to observe a dazzling array of patterns and movement rules.
If you need refreshing on the rules and background there must be hundreds of websites devoted to the problem, with diagrams, formulae, and animations. Many of them spoil the fun, but you’ll easily find all the information you could possibly want and much more besides.
In the spring I used it with a Masterclass group of Y6 children and we dealt with numbers up to quintillions, and derived a procedure to allow them to solve the puzzle for a stack of any size. We used boxes gleaned from the supermarket, and I was struck that for these children it’s probably rather rare that they get they chance to manipulate apparatus. It seems a little sad, but I suspect that one reason they enjoyed the session so much was that there was a strong element of play involved. There were 30 people in the group and next year the organiser has decided she wants to invite 90. Collecting enough boxes will be a massive task, and we’re hoping we can persuade IKEA to sponsor us with a few dozen sets of their toddlers’ stacking cups at £1.50 a set.