Function Machine

We built a function machine and the kids figured out how it processed numbers.

This may look like an ordinary Triscuit box, but it's actually complex machine. Notice the input arrow labeled (x) and the output arrow labeled f(x). The kids put numbers into the machine, the numbers are processed and the answers are written on the backs of the small slips of paper. The kids then are challenged to figure out what the machine is doing.

The kids are free to put any number into the machine. When it comes out they make a table showing their inputs and outputs. Once the machine has processed several numbers, a graph is usually prepared to add a visual clue as to what the machine is doing.

Sometimes they need a little help organizing their data so they can better see what's happening to the numbers.

Decoding the function machine is an excellent exercise in logic skills and math. Each day the function machine is reprogrammed and therefore processes information differently.

Here are some ways the machine can process data;

Add 3 to a number
Input   Output
2             5
11          14
201        203

Subtract 10 from a number
Input     Output
1              -9
33            -23
109          99

Round to the nearest 10
Input      Output
12            10
9              10
24            20
48            50

Multiply by 5
Input      Output
4               20
20             100
-3              -15
-100         -500

Divide by 3 and give the remainder
Input     Output
10             1
8               2
6               0
100           1

This method of learning math by figuring out what is happening is critical for some children like my son. For him, there's no comparison to the function machine.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Building with Legos

Do you have a child who can't get enough of Legos? If you do, then I need some advice.

Legos promote building,

 and creativity.

Following the instructions included in the kits teaches kids about engineering drawings.

My kids like Legos, but they don't love Legos. 

Once a model is completed, it is displayed for a while.

...... but then what? What do you do with the Legos?

Question 1: To mix, or not to mix???????
If the kit pieces are mixed into a big box full of Legos it will be nearly impossible to put the kit together at a later time because finding the pieces will be difficult. If the pieces are left with the kit, there are lots fewer Legos to use.

Question 2: What are your kids creating with Legos?
The rooster and vehicle below the rooster were created without kit instructions. Mostly my kids create from kit instructions, but I think it would be good for them to design more on their own.

Question 3: Have you found any good books, videos or websites that motivate your kids to create with Legos?

I did a quick web search and found these two posts: 16 Awesome Uses for Legos and Use Legos in Creative Ways for Practical Household Solutions. If I show my son these two sites, we're sure to have a Lego potty.

What has been your experience with Legos?

Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt Study and Activities

Ancient Egypt Unit Study

Lesson 3: Canopic Jars - My daughter made a paper mache canopic jar and my son built a pyramid building tool.

Mummies were made throughout the entire history of Egypt, but pyramids were only built during the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdoms. Pyramids were built to house the mummy of the pharaoh as well as the items he would need during the afterlife. Before pharaohs began building pyramids, they were buried in mastaba tombs which were much smaller versions of pyramids. Unfortunately, pyramids were magnets for robbers seeking the wealth of objects the pharaoh was planning to use in his afterlife. Therefore, in later times pyramid building went out of style and pharaohs were buried in secret tombs.

Like the pharaohs, royal and common Egyptians believed they would need their bodies in the afterlife. During the Old Kingdom period, very few people could afford the expense of mummification. However, as Egypt prospered into the Middle Kingdom period, the wealthy became able to afford mummification. During the New Kingdom period of Egyptian history, even the poor could afford some level of mummification.

In addition to people, Egyptians mummified animals. For example, the crocodile was a symbol of the Nile river. People whose life depended upon the river may have chosen to worship the crocodile god which mummified crocodiles for religious ceremony. Throughout the course of Egyptian history animal mummification became so popular that it was big business. Since it was big business, there were incidences of corruption. I was surprised to learn about ibis birds and sticks being mummified to look like hawks in the video Egypt - Deities and Demons.

Pyramid Videos

Engineering an Empire - is a video series which details great engineering accomplishments of several different historical empires. The Egypt episode describes how pyramids, obelisks and temples were constructed.

Engineering an Empire - Egypt

Hidden Secrets of the Great Pyramid - Revealed - In the video a new revolutionary theory for the construction technique of the Great Pyramid at Giza is described in detail.

Gravity Lifting System

The main theory for building the Great Pyramid at Giza in the video Secrets of the Great Pyramid Revealed, suggests a pulley gravity based system was likely installed in the interior of the pyramid. Large stone blocks could have been lifted by attaching a counterweight. The counterweight may have been a container which workers could have filled with stones of lesser weight until the weight was sufficient to lift the pyramid block.

The counterweight system inside the pyramid likely ran on a track, where as ours was a hanging system. Nonetheless, the concept is the same.

Two objects are attached with a string or rope around a pulley or transition point at the top with little friction. When one object outweighs the other object, the heavier object will travel down and the lighter object will be lifted.

Canopic Jars

Canopic Jars were used to store organs during the mummification process in Ancient Egypt. The tops of the jars changed throughout time, but in later years they often contained an animal head. The book Ancient Egyptian Art (Art In History) briefly explained canopic jars. After reading a portion of the art book, my crafty seven year old began flipping through Crafts From The Past: The Egyptians and decided to make a paper mache canopic jar.

She began with a stout cardboard tube and stuffed a newspaper ball into the top. Next she taped the newspaper in place and added cardboard ears.
Well, she lost interest in this project and never finished...... but that's alright with me. She has done plenty of paper mache in the past, and now she knows about canopic jars.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Negative Space Art

We focused on the background of our pictures.

Art Projects for Kids posted a simple activity to place focus on the negative space of artwork.

The kids chose a few flat objects with distinct, identifiable shapes to trace around such as leaves, flowers,

scissors, rulers, and tape dispensers

and silverware.

Next, they colored the background of the picture.

It was very simple, quick project which turned out nice results. - My favorite! - Thank you Art Projects for Kids.

Mandalas - Compass, Straight Edge - Math and Art Combined

Over the past several months there have been many posts regarding creating mandalas with a compass and straight edge. Here's a photo summary of mandala creation ideas. Please visit my Math Page for more information on creating Mandalas with a compass and straight edge.

Getting Iron from Breakfast Cereal

Did you know you can get iron back out of fortified breakfast cereal?

My son got a chunk of iron from his breakfast cereal.

By crushing breakfast cereal into fine grains,

 adding water,

 and pouring the concoction into a plastic bag,

then dragging a strong magnet, iron can be collected. The dark spot in the upper left hand corner of the bag is a small glob of iron.

This video shows the entire procedure.

Thanks to Lucinda at Navigating by Joy for the idea for this cool science experiment. Once I mentioned it to my son, he was immediately working on getting iron.

Ancient Egyptian Map and Timeline

Ancient Egypt Unit Study

Lesson 2: We made an Ancient Egyptian map and timeline.

When studying history it's often difficult for children to comprehend when an event actually occurred. Therefore, creating a detailed timeline which includes events of today as well as past events can be very helpful. We have a large timeline which is located in our kitchen, but sometimes create additional smaller timelines when studying a topic in detail.


Ancient Egyptian History can be divided into a few major historical time periods:
5500 BC - 2950 BC - PreDynastic Period
2950 BC - 2649 BC - Early Dynastic
2649 BC - 2125 BC - Old Kingdom
2050 BC - 2000 BC - Golden Age
1975 BC - 1539 BC - Middle Kingdom
1539 BC - 1075 BC - New Kingdom
1075 BC - 715 BC - Third Intermediate Period
715 BC - 322 BC - Late Period
322 BC - Greek and Roman Period

Our Egyptian timeline was very simple and sketched onto a single sheet of paper with colored sections to divide the major periods. As we read and learned about Egypt, events and pharaohs were added to the timeline.

Pyramid building took place during the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom, and temple building took place during the Middle and New Kingdoms. Several interesting pharaohs lived during the New Kingdom including Thutmose I, Thutmose III, Hatshepsut, Akhenaton and Tutankhamen. Cleopatra, the last pharaoh, lived during the Greek and Roman period.


The map was created by sketching the shape of the current country of Egypt onto a sheet of foam board.

Once the outline and Nile river was drawn in pencil, it was traced with permanent marker.

Next the names of a few significant cities and monuments were placed on the map:
Lower Egypt
Upper Egypt
Valley of the Kings

Additional monuments and cities were added during the course of reading.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Writing Prompt - If My Food Could Talk

If your food could talk what would it say?

When this salad dressing spoke to me in the store I had to try it. Not only that, it made me think about what other foods may say.

We turned talking food into a short writing activity by first taking out several different food items from the pantry. Next about 20 minutes was spent writing what different foods might say. From the lists, favorites were selected and illustrated.

Mashed Pumpkin

Peanut Butter

Granola Bars


Does your food speak to you????????????
Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.  

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