Math busking is a way of inspiring an appreciation for math by making it more accessible and inclusive to a wide range of people. Infused with playfulness, energy, and enthusiasm, math buskers provide large scale, hands-on activities that invite audience participation and engagement with mathematical ideas.
Bev Caswell’s students math busking on the streets of Toronto.
Sara Santo’s maths buskers in Southbank, London, England.
A little background…
“Math busking” (as it is called in England) was developed by Sara Santos, a fellow at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and a team of university undergrads, teachers, and doctoral students who decided to use street performance as a way “to show the public the surprising and fascinating side of mathematics” through “maths busking”.
Math Busking Activities
Here you’ll find a number of math busking activities to take math to the streets, or to your school playground – or even to use at your school’s Family Math Night. These activities can be used as a great starting place to inspire inquiry in your classroom. We often hear students asking, “How does that work?” “What will happen if…?” “Let me try that again…”
Two players decide whether to take one, two or three clothespins (one holds a $20 bill) from a group of 12. The winner takes the lucrative $20 pin on the last turn.
A Pen for Three Animals
Players arrange seven straws of the same length to create three separate holding pens with different dimensions for different three toy animals.
Arrange the numbers 1 to 9 in a 3 by 3 grid. Each row, column, and diagonal of the magic square must have equal sums. This math puzzle has an interesting cultural history. Magic squares used in textiles become culturally significant objects. Popular culture math games such as Sudoku and Ken Ken feature magic squares.
Tower of Hanoi
Our version of the classic math puzzle! Transfer a complete stack of boxes from one of three sites to another so that it arrives in the same formation. Only move one box at a time and never a larger one onto a smaller one. In this version, Susan London-McNab used large cardboard boxes, making an inviting activity for even the most hesitant audience member.
Click HERE for an interactive version of the Tower of Hanoi.
Used with great results at the University of Toronto’s Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School, this game was introduced Julie Comay and Carol Stephenson. It has been modified a little to work in a Montessori classroom and it is now a standard part of the classroom, ready to take from the shelf when the children wish to use it.