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The Fence Problem

Invite your child to build a square fence using four straws. What would be the next size up? Explore this growing pattern with him.

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Extending this activity

  • -Try the problem again, but build triangular fences the second time.

    -Read “Mrs. McTats and her Houseful of Cats” by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. This story explores a growing pattern of cats. First, Mrs. McTat has one cat, then two cats come, then three cats, etc. Use stickers of cats to represent this growing pattern. When new cats arrive, have the child count the total number of cats. (For example, there was one cat and two more came. Now we have three cats. We had three cats and three more arrived. Now we have six cats).

Adjust for an older child

After each fence is built, write down the total number of toothpicks used. For example, the first fence used four toothpicks, the second fence used eight toothpicks, the third fence used twelve toothpicks. Have the child predict how many toothpicks would be used in the next fence if the pattern continued. Encourage him to build his fence and test the prediction.

Adjust for a younger child

Young children may struggle with small toothpicks or straws. Use building blocks or building logs for them to build their fences.

What is being taught through this activity

  • Foundational Literacy/Math Skills: Patterns, Functions, and Algebra

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