Mechanical Engineering and Math STEM Challenge
Math. Around here it is a four letter word that sends my kids running for the hills. A combination of anxiety, a tendency to overthink, and a general reluctance seems to fuel this stress. So whenever I can, I try to come up with new and fun ways to sneak in some math practice. See if they don’t realize they are doing math, or they are having fun, then suddenly math is no longer stressful. This week we created an awesomely fun math STEM challenge, we called it The Switchgrip Math Game.
Switchgrip Math Game STEM Challenge
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When I pulled my kids from school almost 4 years ago, my oldest already had SEVERE anxiety around math. It was to the point of being debilitating. The way he dealt with it at school was to shutdown and not do any of the work. At home he would fall to the floor in a writhing heap. It was overwhelming seeing how much numbers stressed out my kid.
It’s taken years to get my son feeling more confident with math. He still has a lot of anxiety and panic attacks, but thankfully we almost never hear the thud of him hitting the floor anymore.
My goal is to try and infuse as much math into our everyday as I can and when I can turn it into a game. When we are playing games, suddenly the math isn’t so scary! Plus when they sit down to do their worksheets they say things like, “Hey, I did this in that Switchgrip Math Game. I can totally do this.”
The Switchgrip from VEX Robotics
A few months ago VEX Robotics offered to send us some of their kits to test out and when I saw the Switchgrip I knew it would be perfect for a Math STEM Challenge.
The Switchgrip is a mechanical engineering kit that is designed for 8 to 14 year olds. It involves building a handheld ball launcher. Kind of like a Nerf gun but kids get the satisfaction of building it themselves, and boy can this thing fire! It is all mechanical, no batteries are required.
I built the Switchgrip with my youngest son. He has some fine motor challenges and when he was younger we used to use peg boards all the time to work on his grip and fine motor coordination. I was pleasantly surprised at how this kit functions as a more advanced peg board so he can continue practicing and developing those skills.
My youngest loved that the instructions were all very easy to follow pictures. No complicated words to discipher… win! He was constantly checking and telling me which part of the Switchgrip we were assembling. It was great for developing his visuospatial skills.
The only negative was that his fingers definitely became sore after a while snapping the pieces together, so I took over and he told me what to do. In total it took us about an hour to assemble.
Then the fun began!
Switchgrip Math Game
Both of my kids are learning multiplication. My youngest is just starting, and my oldest can always use some fun practice to help him solidify those math foundation skills.
For this game I took 12 disposable coffee cups and using a Sharpie labeled the cups 1 thru 12. We then set them up and the kids took their position. It was time for fun!
The kids took turns shooting. The goal is to knock over at least two cups. Then you must multiply those numbers together. If you do the math right, you get that many points! You then need to add it to your previous points to keep score.
To say this game was a success would be a HUGE understatement. They had so much fun. There was so much laughter and silliness, but most of all learning!
Plus, we were working with some BIG numbers. The math definitely became challenging as their skill with the Switchgrip improved.
When 3 or more cups were knocked over the kids had the option of either choosing only 2 of the numbers to multiply, or they could try and tackle a huge math problem by multiplying all of them together. One round scored over 500 points!
Sometimes a little competitive spirit is a good motivator!
The kids had an insanely good time with this Switchgrip Math STEM Challenge. We did some mechanical engineering, fine motor and visuospatial skill development, plus some fantastic math practice that they actually begged to do over and over again!
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