Making Numbers - Four 4's - Math with a Thinking Challenge

We made equations totaling the numbers 0 to 20 using only four 4 digits and standard math symbols.

The math fairy tale book The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures follows a man and his companion traveling through the middle east. Each chapter describes how the man who counted uses math. One of my favorites tells how he settled a dispute between three brothers who  inherited 35 camels. The father said one son should receive 1/2, one son should receive 1/3 and the other son should receive 1/9 of the camels. There was an instant problem between the brothers as they did not want to injure any camels.

After each chapter we use the white board to discuss the problem described in the book.

In the activity pictured, I skipped part of the story and instead challenged the kids. In the book, the travelers came upon a hotel named the Four 4's. The man who counted was intrigued by the name as he knew all the numbers could be created in sequence using four digit fours and mathematical symbols. That's where I stopped, but the book continued to describe the ways each number could be made.

Since my children range in age from 7 to 13, I was worried how their different abilities would effect the activity. They actually complemented each other! My oldest, was able to write equations containing the square root symbol. Once I explained what it meant to the others, they were eager to use the symbol as well as it could change a digit 4 into a 2.

In another book, I read the description for a similar activity which used the digit 1 instead of 4. Perhaps the kids will be challenged with ones in the future?

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

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