Odyssey of the Mind Curriculum Activity: Made Up Math

Primary goal: Students will use their creativity to develop mathematical questions and answers.
Secondary Goals:
explore the relationship of logic and imagination develop divergent-thinking skills
experience writing creatively for young children apply humor to math
Prep Time
15 minutes

-- individuals
-- small groups
-- large groups

Special Materials
There is a perception that studying mathematics does not provide for creative thinking. Students sometimes find generic numbers and variables confusing and unexciting. This activity is designed to interject creativity into mathematics to make it fun to learn.

Introduce creative thinking relative to math to the class. This can include giving meaning to math terms and assigning fun scenarios to equations. For example, a fraction can be the number of bites required to eat a candy bar; or the problem, When does 15-10 = 1? can be answered in a number of ways, e.g., when a concert ticket costs $15 and you only have $10, it will take one household chore to earn the remaining $5. Ask the class to brainstorm other examples of using creativity to teach math.

Ask each group to create a math quiz of 10 or more questions that require creative thinking. For example, a question might be, When does 1 + 1 = 24? One answer could be, When 1 is a dozen and 24 is eggs. Have the groups swap quizzes and answer each other's questions. Have each group select the two most creative questions on the test they are taking. Compile these on a master quiz and display it in the school for the other classes to see.

Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4 students. Assign each group a basic math lesson and have them develop two different ways of creatively teaching the lesson. Have the groups present their lessons to the class and discuss the results.

Discuss creative writing with the class and how it affects our lives. Present examples of television scripts, novels, and screenplays. Then ask each student to apply their creative writing skills by writing a children's story that incorporates one or more math lessons. They may include illustrations. Compile the stories in a binder and present it to a class of young students. Include an evaluation form for that class's teacher to record which stories were most popular and the lessons that were learned by that class.

 1.  Poll students for their opinions on the effectiveness of incorporating creativity into math. Discuss the outcome with the class.
 2.  Create a questionnaire to determine what students think about math and why. Ask the class to fill it out before this activity and again after completing these exercises. Present the results to the class.
 3.  Hold a class discussion about the methods, styles, and/or themes that were most successful in making math fun while teaching lessons. Did heightened interest translate into easier comprehension? Was this the same for the younger students?