What's new

Rolling block puzzle

By David, 10 September 2013 Activity

Time to get rolling! Use the family board game ‘Upwords’ to try this neat counting technique.

You will need

Upwords board, tiles with letters on them, two balls of plasticine.

You will need these items.

  • A copy of the board game ‘Upwords’
  • Plasticine
  • Sticky Velcro dots (optional)

What to do

  1. Make two cubes of plasticine, with each face the size of an Upwords tile.
  2. Stick the two cubes together to make a block – a rectangular prism.
  3. Push tiles, letters down, into the plasticine rectangular prism to make indents. Push two tiles into each long side, and one into each of the ends. Make sure the sides of the tiles are in line with the sides of the plasticine – everything needs to be rectangular.
    Remember to push the letter side of the tiles into your plasticine.

    Remember to push the letter side of the tiles into your plasticine.

  4. Remove the tiles and try rolling the block around on the Upwords board. It should fit into the bumpy surface neatly, without slipping.
  5. Mark one of the squares on the board with a Velcro dot, and put the block somewhere on the board.
  6. Roll the block around the board, trying to get it on its end on top of the Velcro dot.
  7. Cover some of the board with more plasticine to mark an out-of-bounds area. Put the block somewhere on the board. Once again, try to roll the block onto the Velcro dot. Not all arrangements can be completed, so try moving the plasticine out-of-bounds area if you can’t solve your puzzle.
    Use plasticine to block off part of the board and make a maze.

    Use plasticine to block off part of the board and make a maze.

  8. Make a challenging puzzle, and then see if your friends can do it!
  9. If you like this game, you can make a stronger block using oven-setting clay such as Fimo. A Fimo block feels good and is a lot harder to squish out of shape!

What’s happening?

This puzzle is about counting. There are three different ways the block can stand – on its end, lying front–back or lying left–right. If your block is lying front–back and you roll it to the side, it will still be lying front–back, one square from where it started. If you roll it the other way, up onto its end and over, it ends up three squares away from its original position. If you want to move only two squares away and keep your original direction, you’ll have to be more innovative.

A rectangle of plasticine on a square grid board. someone is rolling the rectangle up onto its end, and the square it is rolling onto is marked.

To complete the puzzle, get the block to stand on end, on top of the marked square.

If you’re after more maths activities for kids, subscribe to Double Helix magazine!

Subscribe now! button


Leave a Reply

By posting a comment you are agreeing to the Double Helix commenting guidelines.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.