NRICH Early Years Activities

Incey Wincey Spider Game

I drew a giant “drainpipe” with sidewalk chalk on the pavement.  The two girls chose to be either the sunny spider or the rainey spider.  They took turns throwing the dice and moving themselves (the spider) up or down the drainpipe according to their role.  They use giant dice with dots to determine how many jumps to make and remember to direct the “spider” to count with each jump after landing.

As we played, I asked questions:

  • where are you now?
  • how many jumps did you make?
  • can you put something on paper to show what numbers you threw or to show someone what you learned from the game?
  • why did the sun win, do you think?
  • why did the rain win, do you think?
  • you’ve thrown two:  what do you have to do now?
  • how many steps more have you got to go?
  • you’ve thrown three: will that get you to the end?
  • how many turns do you think you need to get to the end?
  • what do you think will happen?  why?
  • could we make another game like this?
  • what could we use?

These are the mathematical concepts that we practiced while playing:

  • counting
  • remembering the order of the number words
  • saying the number as they landed on each square
  • remembering the “stopping” number
  • knowing how many more steps remain (part, part, whole)
  • recognizing the number of dots on the dice
  • associating the number of dots with the number of jumps along the track
  • knowing that a bigger number means going further

The girls were highly engaged in the activity.  They enjoyed “playing” math with me and didn’t want to stop.  Their understanding of the number concepts was closely matched despite the differences in their ages (4 and 6 yrs old).  The older girl did have a better understanding of how to represent the information if we wanted to record it (I have a picture of the paper that the 4 year old used to record our information).  Also, the older girl could instantly tell me what number was rolled on the dice while the younger one had to count the dots each time.  Otherwise, I was very surprised by both their number sense of how many more, why did you jump that many, why did she win, how many turns, etc.


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