I love this game, because you can tailor it to the level of your child. Any child, preK through adult, can play and find it challenging and fun!

The Function Machine

Grade Levels: Any, depending on how complex you make the function.

Materials: paper and pencil (whiteboards or Magna Doodles are great, too! We just used the Magna Doodle in the car on a 3-hour drive and it worked great!!)

- Draw a function machine. It need not be fancy, but if you google image function machines you will get tons of ideas. Mine (as I am on the lazy side) typically look like a rectangle with an opening at the top (for the input) and an opening at the bottom (for the output). They are just very boring and sad. The one to the right is super cute and soooo not me.
- Choose a rule (function) to use. So my rule for my PreK could be “one more” or “+1”.
- Your child gives an input number. You give the output number. Example: My son loves the number 5 (after all, he IS 5). So he would put in the number 5 and I would tell him the output is 6. [It is better if you make cool sounds as if the function machine is DOING something. This is supposed to be FUN, remember???]
- Your child keeps guessing numbers, as you fill in the outputs each time, until they realize the pattern and can express it either in words or as a ‘math rule’ (expression). If they guess the rule wrong, keep playing until they get the correct rule.
- This is really fun when you have more than one kiddo playing. However, they may only guess when it is their turn. That way, everyone has a chance to play and learn.

Let’s Try One!

- You enter 5 into the function machine. beep boop beep boop! Out comes 7.
- You enter 2 into the function maching. beep boop beep boop! Out comes 4. (Got a guess for what the function rule is????)
- You enter 10 into the function machine. beep boop beep boop! Out come 12.
- You say the rule is “plus two each time”. Yup! The rule is the machine adds two to each input (or y=x+2 for your middle schoolers).

Suggestions for Different Grade Levels:

Grades K-2: add 1, add 2, add 5, add 10, add 100, subtract 1, subtract 2, subtract 10, subtract 20, etc

Grades 3-5: same as above (Fluency in arithmetic is important!) and multiply by 2, multiply by 5, multiply by 10, take half, divide by 10

Grades 6-up: combine operations multiply by 2 and add 1 (2x+1), triple a number minus 1 (3x-1), a number times itself (square it), take half of a number and add 1 (1/2x+ 1), etc. You can also include negative rules as well (like multiply by -3).

You can also create a function table and just fill in as input/outputs as well, if they are above having a cute function machine. I have inserted one below as an example.

These are so great for trips and such, because all it takes is a napkin and a pen (and your rule). Finding relationships is imperative for algebra. This is a great way for kids to play with the ideas they need for later mathematics!